This article From ISKCON TIMES is in response to the article “Bangalore Battle Comes to a Head” (http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/editorials/02-12/editorials8249.htm) posted on Sampradaya Sun.
ISKCON Bangalore and ISKCON Mumbai dispute is slated for final hearing on Feb 16th 2012, Wednesday before the Honorable Supreme Court. It is learnt that ISKCON Bangalore has filed an application seeking to initiate contempt of Court proceedings against officers of ISKCON Mumbai. Sources said that ISKCON Bangalore had discovered that Doyaram Dasa had filed a forged document before the Honorable Supreme Court. He had also asserted that the document in question were part of the trial court documents. ISKCON Bangalore sought the Honorable Supreme Court to initiate contempt of Court against officers of ISKCON Mumbai for producing before the court forged documents and claiming that they were part of the trial court documents when they were actually not. These were part of the accounting documents which Doyaram Dasa had submitted along with his assertions in a complaint filed against the former auditor of ISKCON Bangalore Sri V L Varadrajan before Institute of Chartered Accountant of India (ICAI) to claim that the auditor had audited accounts for ISKCON Mumbai and not ISKCON Bangalore in 1991.
BACK GROUND FOR THE CASE
Srila Prabhupada founded the ISKCON Movement in New York in the year 1966. International Society for
Krishna Consciousness, Bombay (ISKCON Bombay) was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and also registered as a Public Trust under the Bombay Public Trusts Act in the year 1971. Srila Prabhupada was against centralized management of ISKCON and he preferred that each centre of ISKCON that came into existence be independent, autonomous and be separately registered. He wrote in a letter to one of the leaders of ISKCON:
“I have heard from Jayatirtha you want to make big plan for centralization of management, taxes, monies, corporate status, bookkeeping, credit, like that. I do not at all approve of such plan. Do not centralize anything. Each temple must remain independent and self-sufficient. That was my plan from the very beginning, why you are thinking otherwise? … Do not think in this way of big corporation, big credits, and centralization—these are all nonsense proposals. … Otherwise, management, everything, should be done locally by local men. Accounts must be kept, things must be in order and lawfully done, but that should be each temple's concern, not yours. Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy. Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing will be spoiled. There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No. Never mind there may be botheration to register each centre, take tax certificate each, and become separate corporations in each state. That will train men how to do these things, and they shall develop reliability and responsibility, that is the point.” (Emphasis added) Srila Prabhupada's letter to Karandhara Dasa, Dec 22 , 1972, Bombay.
With a view to spread the ISKCON movement in Karnataka, the followers of the ISKCON movement
Registered in Bangalore, a society “International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Bangalore” (ISKCONBangalore) in the year 1978 under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960. ISKCON-Bangalore is thus a legal entity in existence separate from ISKCON Bombay.
In order to have its own premises and to construct a grand temple and cultural complex thereon, the ISKCONBangalore society applied to the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) in the year 1987 for allotment of the land through its President, Madhu Pandit Das. The ISKCON-Bangalore society's registration number finds a place in the first paragraph of this application for the purpose of acquiring such property. Pursuant to the applications filed attaching the certificate of registration and byelaws of ISKCON-Bangalore, in respect of an area of 6 acres 8 guntas located at Rajajinagar, Bangalore, the BDA executed and registered a sale deed on 3/8/1988, Bangalore in favour of ISKCON-Bangalore, and handed over possession of the property to ISKCON-Bangalore. ISKCON-Bangalore also applied for and obtained exemption under the Urban Land Ceiling & Regulation Act, 1976 with regard to holding of this property. Thereafter the ISKCON-Bangalore started construction of a grand temple and cultural complex which was completed around the year 1997 and this temple is now called Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Hare Krishna Hill, ISKCON-Bangalore. ISKCON-Bangalore society also had applied for and obtained registration under the Foreign Contributions & Regulation Act (FCRA). The ISKCON-Bangalore temple on Hare Krishna Hill, was built out of funds entirely collected as donations from people of Karnataka and not a single rupee was given by ISKCON Mumbai or any other ISKCON organization worldwide.
THE GENESIS OF THE SUIT
Around 1998, certain theological differences arose amongst the followers of ISKCON-Bangalore and ISKCON Mumbai. Actually the discussions and debates on this theological issue have been going on in ISKCON worldwide since 1978. The issue is about the spiritual succession in ISKCON after the demise of Srila Prabhupada. Who will be his spiritual successor who will adorn the venerable seat of Acharya after his passing away? Being aware that his disciples were young, ambitious, spiritual novices Srila Prabhupada did not appoint any of them to become his spiritual successor. He appointed eleven of his senior disciples to act as Ritviks or Representative of the Acharya to conduct on his behalf spiritual initiations (diksha) of the new devotees in his institution. And Srila Prabhupada would remain the Acharya of the movement with all new devotees becoming his disciples. But soon after his passing away in 1977, his eleven senior disciples declared, without authorization, to the world that they were Srila Prabhupada's successor Acharyas. They started accepting ornate high seats (called Vyasasana), special honourific titles, receiving arati worship, feet wash with milk and honey, opulent life styles – as current Acharyas, taking the position of representatives of God for their disciples in this world. In a few years, some of these self-appointed Acharyas or Gurus became victims of lust and greed: they were found to be having secret affairs with their women disciples; some took to their old habits of drugs. Cover up of illicit activities by the Gurus, repression of those who questioned the self-appointed Gurus, accumulation of donations received from the disciples in personal accounts instead of institutional accounts, acquiring properties in personal name, quelling opposition by recruiting more Gurus – these have become the accepted practices in ISKCON worldwide. This abuse of power and authority constitutes the dark history of ISKCON, post Srila Prabhupada's physical departure in 1977.
In 1999, the corrupt practices in the great institution built by Srila Prabhupada reached a pinnacle when the Chairman of the International Governing Body Commission eloped with a female masseur and millions of dollars of ISKCON. The devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore became aware of this and under the leadership of Madhu Pandit Das, they decided to oppose the disobedience to Srila Prabhupada's order on spiritual succession which was the root cause of all the sordid acts in ISKCON. ISKCON-Bangalore had over three hundred full-time missionary devotees – most of them from middle class, educated Indian families. They were all inspired by the life and works of the saintly Acharya, Srila Prabhupada. Contrasting this were the spiritual leaders of ISKCON who were proclaiming to be the present Acharyas – without authorization from Srila Prabhupada. It is not uncommon to hear every now and then about the fall down from grace of a such-and-such Guru! To accommodate such fall downs of ISKCON Gurus, ISKCON has enshrined in the ISKCON Law Book, such absurd clauses that say the Gurus can be put on probation, suspension, warning and even removed! The devotees of ISKCON-Bangalore declared that we shall not accept these fallible, self-proclaimed Gurus of ISKCON, but the pure devotee and steadfast Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.
The immediate response to this by the international leadership of ISKCON was startling: Madhu Pandit Das was expelled from ISKCON in 1999.Madhu Pandit Das had served in ISKCON for over eighteen years; he joined ISKCON after he completed his BTech from IIT Bombay, and a short stint with his M Tech program in 1981; he became involved in ISKCONBangalore in 1983 when the then Temple President invited him to assist him in the management of the temple in Bangalore; he officially became the Temple President in 1984; at that time ISKCON-Bangalore operated from a two-bed room house in an obscure location on West of Chord Road, Bangalore with no more than a half dozen full-time missionary devotees. By 1999, Madhu Pandit Das had led a team of over 60 full-time missionaries and built the most appreciated and grand temple – with no financial assistance of any other ISKCON temple or ISKCON leader. Disregarding all of these contributions to the society, he was expelled merely for stating that Srila Prabhupada is the only Acharya and Guru in ISKCON! Next, ISKCON Mumbai threatened to take over the temple at ISKCON-Bangalore from the devotees who had embraced the faith that Srila Prabhupada shall be their Guru and rejected the fallible and self-appointed Gurus.
When there was threat of ISKCON Bombay forcibly taking possession of the temple on Hare Krishna Hill and all structures thereon, the ISKCON-Bangalore society asserted it's independent legal status and filed the suit O.S.No.7934/2001, seeking a decree of permanent injunction restraining ISKCON Bombay from interfering with its possession and later on amended it to seek for a declaration of its title. ISKCON Bombay admitted that the ISKCON-Bangalore was registered as a society but contended that the ISKCON-Bangalore Society became defunct and what was in existence and functioning at Bangalore all along as ISKCON-Bangalore was only a branch of ISKCON Bombay and that the allotment and the sale deed was actually in favour of it's branch, and not in favour of ISKCON-Bangalore society and made a counterclaim for permanent injunction against the ISKCON-Bangalore society against interference with it's possession. Thus the theological dispute became a legal dispute for the property of the temple on Hare Krishna Hill.
INTERIM ORDER DURING SUIT
During the pendency of the suit OS 7934/2001, there was an order of the Honorable High Court of Karnataka of temporary injunction restraining ISKCON Bombay from interfering with the possession of ISKCON- Bangalore society over it's properties, which had come to be confirmed by the Honorable Supreme Court with certain conditions
TRIAL COURT'S JUDGEMENT IN FAVOUR OF ISKCON-BANGALORE
After nine years of litigation, OS No. 7934/2001 instituted by ISKCON-Bangalore against ISKCON Bombay came to be decreed by the Trial Court holding that the ISKCON-Bangalore society had proved that it had applied for and had obtained allotment of the property on Hare Krishna Hill in it's favour, was the owner and was in possession of the same and the counterclaim of ISKCON Bombay came to be dismissed.
IMPUGNED JUDGEMENT OF THE HIGH COURT OF KARNATAKA
ISKCON Mumbai filed an appeal before the Honorable High Court of Karnataka and the same has been allowed by it's impugned judgment. By the impugned judgment, the Honorable High Court has set aside the judgment of the trial court and has reversed its findings on title and has held that though ISKCON-Bangalore society was registered, it became defunct. The High Court has disbelieved the certified copies of the applications for allotment showing that the plaintiff had applied for allotment of the property, and has held that ISKCONBangalore has failed to prove it's title and has held that the property was conveyed to the Bangalore branch of ISKCON Mumbai.
SUBJECT MATTER OF SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT
ISKCON-Bangalore has filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) challenging the judgment of the Honorable High Court of Karnataka dated 23/5/2011 in RFA 421/2009, by which the High Court allowed the appeal of ISKCON Mumbai, set aside the judgment and decree of the Court of the IX Additional City Civil Judge, Bangalore and has dismissed the suit O.S.7934/01.