BY: MADHU PANDIT DASA
Jun 11, 2011 — BANGALORE, INDIA — With concern we note the deliberate misinformation campaign begun by ISKCON Mumbai over the proper scope of the order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 06/June/2011 in the Special Leave Petition No.15814 of 201,1 preferred by ISKCON Bangalore against the order and judgment dated 23/May/2011 passed by the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka in Regular First Appeal (RFA No.421/2009).
ISKCON Bangalore had sought the legal opinion of Mr. K.V. Dhananjay, Advocate, Supreme Court, in this regard. The said legal opinion by Mr. Dhananjay in response to various untenable claims of ISKCON Mumbai, follows for your information.
Yours in the service of mankind,
Madhu Pandit dasa
1) ISKCON Mumbai's Argument - Madhu Pandit Dasa asked for stay of the operation of the High Court order which was refused in Supreme Court.
Answer: It is unprofitable to claim a legal right on the basis of what might have orally transpired in Courts during a hearing. Further, ISKCON Bangalore is well within its rights to contradict this claim by saying that its counsel did not press for the same owing to his satisfaction with the Order of ‘Status Quo' just then issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. It is true and evident that ISKCON Bangalore sought a specific and express prayer for interim stay of the impugned judgment (that is, Judgment of the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka dated 23-May-2011). As is the practice at the Hon'ble Supreme Court, every such application for an interim Order has to be separately and distinctively numbered. I have verified that the interim stay application of Bangalore ISKCON in the Special Leave Petition No.15814 of 2011 filed by it at the Supreme Court is still intact. Even as of this morning, 11-Jun-2011, the interim stay application of ISKCON Bangalore is pending and alive. As such, it is improper for ISKCON Mumbai to characterize ISKCON Bangalore's stay application as rejected or refused. ISKCON Bangalore's stay application has neither been refused nor rejected. It is very much intact and may be considered at the next date of hearing. Therefore, ISKCON Mumbai may claim no right on their assumption that the interim stay application of ISKCON Bangalore has been rejected. Such an assumption is erroneous and mistaken.
2) ISKCON Mumbai's Argument: Madhu Pandit Dasa, President of ISKCON Bangalore had asked for ‘Status Quo' as on 23rd May, 2011 i.e. as per findings of the trial court. This was also refused.
Answer: The Order of ‘Status Quo' is always issued by an Appellate Court with reference to the factual position of parties before it. In other words, the Order of ‘Status Quo' is never issued with reference to the idealized conduct of parties before the Court. Now, ISKCON Mumbai is merely speaking about what ought to have been the ideal conduct of ISKCON Bangalore in their view after the pronouncement of the impugned judgment. With a picture of such ideal conduct, ISKCON Mumbai is further saying that the order of ‘Status Quo' by the Supreme Court has the purpose of perpetuating such ‘ideal conduct' of ISKCON Bangalore. In short, the very argument of ISKCON Mumbai rests on an absurd notion.
The Order of ‘Status Quo' of the Supreme Court was issued on 06-Jun-2011. It is neither necessary nor meaningful to ask whether this Order of ‘Status Quo' applies from 23-May-2011 or 06-Jun-2011. In either case, ISKCON Bangalore continues to be protected to the same extent. ISKCON Bangalore has respectfully disagreed with every part of the impugned judgment that is adverse to it. With such disagreement, it has preferred a Special Leave Petition to the Supreme Court and has asked the Court to find in its favour. In order to ascertain the true role of Supreme Court's Order of ‘Status Quo' one needs to ask:
a) What was the factual position of ISKCON Bangalore on 23-May-2011 and did that factual position undergo any change thereafter and before 06-Jun-2011?
ISKCON Bangalore has stated that their factual position did not undergo any change between 23-May-2011 and 06-Jun-2011. They state that they promptly secured an independent professional legal opinion on whether the impugned judgment was executory or was such as to require a separate execution proceeding in Order to confer an executory right upon ISKCON Mumbai. They received a legal opinion to the effect that ISKCON Mumbai could not act on the impugned judgment without instituting a separate execution proceeding thereafter. In light of this state of mind on the part of ISKCON Bangalore, when certain members of ISKCON Mumbai sought to enter the suit properties on several days in the intervening period 23-May-2011 to 05-Jun-2011, on each such occasion, the members of ISKCON Bangalore perceived members of ISKCON Mumbai as trespassers and intruders and accordingly, prevented members of ISKCON Mumbai from entering into the suit properties. There was extensive and uniform media reporting on this very aspect – that ISKCON Mumbai persons were promptly stopped at the gates of suit properties by ISKCON Bangalore members.
As such, the factual position of ISKCON Bangalore is the sum of their bonafide belief and their outward conduct. ISKCON Mumbai might argue that ISKCON Bangalore did not have any right to stop ISKCON Mumbai members from entering the suit properties. Yet, ISKCON Mumbai cannot state that they were not prevented at the gates of the suit properties. As such, in Order to ascertain the proper meaning of an Order of ‘Status Quo' in a civil dispute, the factual state of affairs (and not the idealized state of affairs that one party might have desired) should be considered. As such, on 06-Jun-2011, ISKCON Bangalore held a factual position that excluded ISKCON Mumbai members from suit properties. That is the factual position that is protected by reason of the Supreme Court's Order.
As such, ISKCON Bangalore is fully justified in preserving and continuing their conduct that existed on 06-Jun-2011 by, where warranted, preventing the entry of ISKCON Mumbai members from entering the suit properties - so long as the Order of ‘Status Quo' of the Supreme Court subsists.
As such, the Order of ‘Status Quo' by the Hon'ble Supreme Court ties both parties to the position that they held on 06-Jun-2011. If ISKCON Mumbai members could not make any progress in proceeding with their proposal of a ‘supervisory committee' in the intervening period, they cannot do it after 06-Jun-2011. Certainly, one might ask here if whatever steps ISKCON Mumbai took in regard to their supervisory committee went beyond addressing a letter to ISKCON Bangalore. Of course, they did write a letter to ISKCON Bangalore. But, the writing of a letter cannot be construed as a progress in the matter. ‘Progress' would mean the successful taking of steps pursuant to the desire of ISKCON Mumbai to constitute a ‘supervisory committee'. It is quite evident that no action of any kind could be taken by ISKCON Mumbai in regard to their ‘supervisory committee' in the intervening period at all – evidently due to the stoppage at the gates of the suit properties by members of Bangalore ISKCON. As such, the taking by ISKCON Mumbai of an action that they failed to carry through in the intervening period is specifically barred by reason of the Order of ‘Status Quo' passed on 06-Jun-2011 by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. Further, ISKCON Bangalore would be well within their rights to act on their bonafide and legitimate belief that they are justified in further not allowing ISKCON Mumbai to knowingly breach the Order of ‘Status Quo' so passed by the Supreme Court.
3) ISKCON Mumbai further argues that: The part which deals with temple issue is as follows only:
a) "5. In the meanwhile, the parties shall maintain status quo, as of today [June 6, 2011]. 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."
b) This means the High Court order which held that possession and management of the Bangalore temple is by Madhu Pandit Das in his capacity as the president of the Bangalore branch of the ISKCON reg. in Mumbai & MPD must act in accordance with Rules and Regulations of ISKCON reg. in Mumbai continues to operate.
c) However, since the Bangalore society had been declared to be defunct by the judgment of the Hon'ble High Court, further direction was given that Bangalore society with the present office bearers would continue the day to day management of the society and should not take any decisions or create liabilities*.
d) Kindly note that order does not state that Bangalore Society will manage Temple or suit schedule properties but it states that it can manage the society.
Answer: Again, ISKCON Mumbai is stressing on the executory aspect of the impugned judgment when it says that ISKCON-Bangalore was practically defunct. ISKCON-Bangalore has been of the bona fide view that the impugned judgment is erroneous and that it was such as to require a separate execution proceeding even for its enforcement. As such, ISKCON-Bangalore did not act on the notion that it was defunct at any point of time in the intervening period. It is possible for the impugned Order to exist in its given form and for ISKCON-Bangalore to also hold a legitimate view that something more was necessary for the impugned judgment to become executory. Under such circumstances, it was not unreasonable for ISKCON-Bangalore to hold such a view and the fact that some legal scholars might disagree with such a view does not come in the way of disputing the authority of ISKCON Bangalore to entertain and hold such a view. Further, ISKCON-Bangalore is justified in further assuming that the Order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court reaffirms their bona fide belief and conduct that they were in charge and control of the suit properties during the intervening period in much the same way that they used to manage before the passage of the impugned judgment.
When ISKCON Mumbai argues that the Supreme Court made a distinction between temple and suit properties and the society, they have thoroughly misguided themselves. This is what ISKCON Mumbai has argued in relation to the judgment of the Supreme Court-
Kindly note that order does not state that Bangalore Society will manage Temple or suit schedule properties but it states that it can manage the society.
With great respects to whoever propounded such a view, I would like to state that the aforesaid argument is unimaginably unintelligent and absurd. A society is an association of persons and acquires a legal existence pursuant to a valid registration under the law in force in the relevant State of India. A society does not exist in any abstract form and always acts through its appointed individuals. The suit properties have been claimed at all relevant time as the properties of a registered society with the distinct name ‘International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Bangalore'. Throughout this discussion, this very society has been referred to as ‘ISKCON-Bangalore' for short. As such, when the Hon'ble Supreme Court stated that the appellant before it, ISKCON-Bangalore, shall conduct the day-to-day management of the society, the Court could only have referred to the suit properties that are the subject of the dispute. There is no specific portion in any of the suit properties that specifically holds a label with the title – "this is the society". The society, therefore, is a legal person claiming ownership and control over all suit properties and the temple is one of several suit properties. As such, it is wholly absurd to draw a distinction between a society and the property that it manages in a manner that ISKCON Mumbai has desired.
4) ISKCON Mumbai has further argued- MPD requested for stay of the operation of the Supervisory committee formed by the Bureau which was also refused by the Hon'ble Supreme Court and the Bench orally indicated that since the status quo was to be maintained as on 6-06-2011, Supervisory Committee shall continue. And, when an apprehension was raised by the counsel appearing for MPD that Supervisory Committee would interfere with the day to day affairs, it was indicated from the records (Bureau Resolution dt. 25th May, 2011 constituting the Supervisory Committee) that the Supervisory Committee was constituted with a specific direction not to interfere with the day to day administration of the affairs of the temple & the Hon'ble Supreme Court did not pass any orders in this regard.
Answer: Everything that is stated in the aforesaid paragraphs has been vehemently denied by Madhu Pandit Dasa and several other individuals who were present during the hearing on 06-Jun-2011 at the Supreme Court. As already indicated in the earlier part of this letter, a party to a dispute is not authorized to claim any manner of right or title by describing in his own version, the words that were uttered or exchanged during the court hearing and which words find no place in the order issued by the court. A party to a dispute ought to know that no responsible court of law or a Judge would desire the rights of parties to be determined on the basis of differing or contradicting versions over what words and exchanges took place during a hearing – while those words and exchanges blissfully stay out of the Order dictated by the Court to express its mind to express how each party shall conduct itself. The sanctity of a judicial proceeding would be gravely undermined should each party to such proceeding begin to advertise on rights that it has somehow acquired owing to the its perception that a certain exchange of words took place orally in the court - while the Order of the Court states no such thing.
5) ISKCON Mumbai has further argued - As things stand, the status of affairs as on 6-06-2011, i.e. with to the status declared by Hon'ble High Court in R.F.A.No.421/2009, more particularly that the branch of ISKCON Reg. in Mumbai is in possession of the temple and that the temple should function in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of ISKCON Reg. in Mumbai.
Answer: The aforesaid view of ISKCON Mumbai is a plain summary of their claims stated in the earlier paragraphs. The aforesaid claim is erroneous and unsustainable. ISKCON-Bangalore has been specifically injuncted by the Hon'ble Supreme Court from taking any major financial or policy decision that would operate against the society. The fact that the Hon'ble Supreme Court has so stated must mean that the court was of the view that if not for such an injunction, ISKCON-Bangalore could have exercised the power to do so. In other words, the said injunction by the Hon'ble Supreme Court presupposes a power in ISKCON-Bangalore to do so in the absence of such injunction. If only ISKCON Mumbai could recognize this aspect that forms the presupposition for the Supreme Court's order of 06-Jun-2011, it would be bound to agree with much of what has been stated in the aforesaid paragraphs – that ISKCON Bangalore professed to act for itself and in full authority over the suit properties during the intervening period. If only ISKCON-Bangalore management possessed no power to do anything as claimed repeatedly by ISKCON Mumbai, the specific injunction of the Hon'ble Supreme Court would lose all meaning and context. As such, in order to attribute any meaning at all to the specific injunction by the Supreme Court, it becomes necessary to negative and reject nearly everything that ISKCON Mumbai has claimed in the aforesaid paragraphs.
6) Throughout the Order of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court has referred to ISKCON-Bangalore as a branch of IKSCON Mumbai.
I am at a loss to make any sense of the aforesaid claim. The Order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 06-Jun-2011 is fairly detailed and extensively recounts the case history. The Supreme Court has, at every turn, referred to two distinct societies. ‘Plurality' of parties is plainly writ large on the Order itself. Further, the direction by the Hon'ble Supreme Court to ISKCON Bangalore is made in response to ISKCON Bangalore's argument on appeal that it was not a branch of ISKCON Mumbai and that it had a separate and independent existence from that of ISKCON Mumbai.
No.127, ‘Lawyers Chambers'
Supreme Court of India
New Delhi 110 001
Date : 11-June-2011