A bench headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi last Wednesday reserved verdict on an appeal filed by Bengaluru branch’s Chanchalpati Das challenging registration of an FIR on ‘concocted charges of theft of the bus’ by the Mumbai ISKCON, filing of chargesheet and the Calcutta HC’s refusal to quash the FIR.
The Mumbai unit had lodged the FIR in Kolkata alleging that the bus was “stolen” by the Bengaluru unit, which fraudulently transferred the ownership of the vehicle to Bengaluru ISKCON. The West Bengal police chargesheet named Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chanchalpati Das and two others as accused.
During the hearing in SC, the Bengaluru unit offered to settle the criminal case by purchasing a new bus for the Mumbai unit at a cost of Rs 70 lakhs, but the latter refused to accept it saying the accused persons in a criminal case must face prosecution as their alleged acts were against ISKCON’s principal objective to spread love and compassion while preaching Lord Krishna’s eternal messages to mankind.
This finds reflection in the SC’s June 6, 2011 order in an appeal filed by Bengaluru unit challenging a Karnataka HC decision rejecting its claim and ownership over the temple at Karnataka’s capital city. The SC had said, “It is unfortunate but true that the two societies stated to be societies for the purposes of Krishna Consciousness… have chosen to litigate with regard to the temple, its management and properties at Bangalore.”
In the same order, the SC had ordered, “In the meanwhile, parties shall maintain status quo, as of today. However, the Bangalore Society with its present office bearers shall continue day-to-day management of the Society but would not take any major and policy decision created liabilities of any kind from the Bangalore Society.”
On December 14, 2011, the SC appointed a committee – ex-SC judge Justice R.V. Raveendran as Chairman, and Ananda Thirtha Das and Stoka Krishna Das as members. “The Committee shall oversee the management of the temple and its properties by the Bengaluru society and shall be entitled to advise the said society on matters relating to the management of the temple and its properties,” it said.
The Karnataka HC, in its judgment, had made stinging remarks – “Richer the endowment, greater will be the temptation to swallow the same. Under these circumstances, Madhu Pandit Das and his associates conspired to claim right of ownership not only over the income, but over the idol, the deity of the temple and the entire assets of the temple. Madhupandit Das and his associates had taken advantage of the identical names” of the two societies.
“This is how Madhu Pandit Das and his associates started claiming that there was no branch of Mumbai ISKCON at Bangalore and the ISKCON movement at Bangalore was built by plaintiff society and the scheduled properties belong to the plaintiff society,” the HC had said. A plea for expunging the critical remarks in the judgment had been turned down by the HC.
The SC had admitted the SLP by the Bengaluru branch on March 2, 2016. On July 27 last year, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant had scheduled its hearing on August 25, 2022, but the appeal was not taken up for hearing on that day. The SC website does not show any fresh date for the hearing of the 12-year-old appeal.