Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bombay vs Bangalore update 9/28/14

By Madhu Pandit das

Update on Supreme Court hearings....

On 25th, after hearing us for the full day the Supreme Court passed the following order:

"Leave granted. Heard learned counsel for the parties in part. The Registry is directed to take steps to secure the original record pertaining to Civil Suit No.7934/2001 before the 9th Additional City Civil & Sessions Judge, Bangalore. List the matter on 18th November, 2014 as part heard."

By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, Leave has been granted as per our Special Leave Petition (SLP) after hearing our preliminary merits for granting the leave in spite of the opposition by opposite party ISKCON Mumbai to reject the Special leave petition SLP from the day we entered the portals of the Supreme Court in 2009.

For those not familiar with the Supreme Court procedures please read below:

What is this granting leave?

The Supreme Court of India does not accept appeal directly wherein they are bound to hear any petition against High Court orders like lower courts below them do. In India, suit begins at munsiff court, then district court then High court and then Supreme Court. Only for Constitutional matters like fundamental rights etc one can go directly to the Supreme Court.

One normally starts litigation based on the jurisdiction of the property etc. We started with the district court as our Temple was located in the city. In Bangalore there are rural munsiff courts also.

Anywhere you lose in a lower court, you can appeal in the next court and it will be called appellate court of the court below where you can go in appeal. We won in the Trial Court in 2009 and ISKCON Mumbai went on an appeal in the High Court and won in 2011. That is when we came to the Supreme Court against the order of the High court.

As I said in the Supreme Court, you can only enter with a special leave petition SLP seeking permission to file an appeal and cannot file directly an appeal. It is the petition seeking leave or permission to file the appeal. If it is granted only then your appeal will be heard.

SLPs are heard on Mondays and Fridays. Each court will have about 250 matters on that day. There are 13 courts in the Supreme Court. Two judges preside over these courts. In Supreme Court single judges don't preside over the court. On Mondays and Fridays they will they either say 'issue notice' to other side or will refuse to issue notice and reject the SLP. If they issue notice then SLP will go to next stage of hearing the SLP on a subsequent date in the queue. 

If they refuse to issue notice that is the end of your story. On that day you only get two minutes before the judge. That is the first critical point for any litigant who enter the Supreme Court. Mostly the judges would have read two three para 'synopsis' in advance in their Chambers and come. Many cases not even two minutes. They would have read and come and just lift the file and say SLP dismissed. Less than a minute. They won't even allow the lawyer to speak. They will say, we have read it.

In 2011 we crossed that stage without getting thrown out. We got one leg into the Supreme Court that day. The most dangerous stage mainly because there are limitations how much the lawyer can communicate and judges can understand in two minutes. Once rejected, you simply have to go home even if you had so much merit.

Any Supreme Court judge who reads our High Court judgement will get shocked that there is a finding given of such a huge number of documents being fraudulently fabricated. No judge will get opportunity to see the documents at this stage to verify if it is true or not and they won't think of verifying also. By default they will think it is true. 

If you tell a very big lie people don't verify. We tend to think 'how can such a big thing be a lie'. Our high court judgement is like that. Out of two fifty three documents , High Court has given a finding that 106 documents filed by us are tampered and manipulated by insertions and affixing of seal of Karnataka society to make it look like our society document which really according to them are Bombay society's documents. 

No judges at the SLP entry stage will think that two high court judges will make such a big mistake. Actually if you go into the documents and verify you won't find any seal or insertion on any of these. On this point (so called seal and insertions), the judges rejected these documents as having no evidentiary. 

With such a judgement with finding of fraud, normally the party won't cross the first stage of ‘issue notice’. In our case, ISKCON Mumbai appeared on the first date of hearing to support the judges to get the SLP thrown out without issue notice. By Prabhupada's and Krishna's mercy instead of two minutes the court took half an hour on that day in 2009. 

Not only 'issue notice' to them was ordered but the court gave a two page status quo order allowing us to continue in management since we showed newspaper cuttings that they are trying to forcefully enter the temple on the strength of the High court judgment. It is then that the Supreme Court gave us the status quo order saying we only will continue to manage. That was our first victory in the Supreme Court against their opposition to get the SLP rejected without even issue of notice. This, ISKCON Mumbai could not digest.

Once ‘issue notice’ happens in a case, they have to file counter and we file a rejoinder to the counter and SLP is heard as to whether leave to be granted to file an appeal against the high court order or not on a listed date. It is during one such date of hearing they also filed an application saying that since fraud is the basis of high court judgement they wanted to be jointly managing the property in the interim period by telling stories about real estate diversion of temple funds etc. But we vehemently opposed it but agreed to an alternative to have a supervisory Oversight Committee headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge. That is how Oversight committee was appointed, but with no change in management; only supervising the Bangalore Society who will continue to manage. That was our second victory against them.

After the Oversight committee was formed the SLP was getting listed on several dates but our number was not reaching before the court closed for the day. This is very normal. Two years have passed by like this. Unlike Mondays and Fridays where they ensure atleast 250 matters for each court. On other days only about 20 to 25 items are listed. Still our matter was not reaching.

This is the stage after 'issue notice' to other side where the court will decide to hear on preliminary merits to admit the case by granting leave (permission) on our SLP to file the Civil Appeal (CA). If they see no merit in converting it into an appeal you get thrown out at that stage. That is again end of your story. If they see merit in hearing the appeal then only they will grant leave. 

When this is done, automatically the court converts the SLP papers into a civil appeal CA with a new number. Such leave granted matters will come in the normal course after 4 to 5 years. In our case on 25th, last Thursday we crossed this second stage where leave was granted which means after hearing a full day the Supreme Court saw merit in giving us leave or permission to convert the SLP into a CA. The court could have rejected the SLP by dismissing it. This was the lurking danger on all the hearing dates till now since 2011. The court could have potentially said: 'we heard you, but we don't see any merit in hearing in depth through a Civil Appeal therefore dismissing the SLP.'

Once leave is granted, every CA has to be heard in full and a detailed judgement will have to come out. SLP is disposed off as merely orders without a judgement. Only CA will have a judgement and an operating order. Now the court has ordered to get all the documents from the original court in Bangalore. If our side takes ten days to show every document, the court won’t push us to hurry but will patiently hear both parties. Till leave granting stage the pressure of time before the court is always there. The court before granting leave can say 'no we don't want to hear anymore and get into details and we are not granting leave and dismissing the SLP'. 

Now having granted leave they are hearing the CA or Civil Appeal and not the SLP. Both sides will take their own time and judges will have to write detailed judgement. This is the stage we are in today after leave being granted. We crossed two major hurdles and now both our legs are in the Supreme Court. When notice was issued we put one leg into the Supreme Court and when leave was granted our second leg is also in. Now it is a full fledged fight on merits of the CA or Civil Appeal.

Why our matter, after granting leave is coming so fast for hearing instead of four or five years?

In our case there is an application of urgency before the court from us saying that all our projects which are not even connected to litigation are affected due to Oversight Committee insisting on having jurisdiction to supervise over not only Hare Krishna Hill, but over all the properties of Bangalore society by interpreting the wordings in the order which created this Interim Oversight Committee. 

In between this application was heard, and the court said it will be heard with the main matter as it had no time and gave a short date for final disposal. So we have been showing urgency by mentioning that fact several times to the court. So that is why after granting leave it is posted for immediate disposal in November instead of going into the que to come after four years. 

Plus you see in the order there is mention of the word 'part heard'. This is another good thing. It won't be going from one bench to another and delaying. These two judges won't sit together in November as mostly the roster changes after holidays. But on November 18th and for further dates they will sit together only to hear our matter and will go on for about ten to twelve sessions like that till the case is closed. 

Now we have ample opportunity to show the perversity of the High court judgement by showing each of the 106 documents. Plus we can prove that how they have fabricated an audit report of 1991 by forging the signature of our then auditor to show as if he was their auditor. We have filed a separate criminal case against them in Bangalore for this.

To get to hear the matter immediately instead of after three or four years is our third victory against their strategy to go on dragging the SLP just to harass our Vaikunta Hill Krishna Lila Theme Park project through the Oversight Committee who have already taken a stand that we cannot create any liabilities on the land where Krishna Lila Park is to be built.

Before the court rose it made a request to the counsel for both sides. Being august institutions, they expressed the opinion that the counsels for both the sides help the parties to come to some mutual settlement if possible. Our counsel said we have tried everything. Then one of the judges asked ISKCON Mumbai’s counsel as to why don't they try to accommodate ISKCON Bangalore under the big umbrella of ISKCON. The ISKCON Mumbai’s counsel replied that in a month long gap till next hearing he will speak to his clients on the same.

Please continue with your prayers to Srila Prabhupada and Deities to ensure that Srila Prabhupada's position as our dear spiritual master as well as our service to His Divine Grace is protected through the final outcome of this case as it pleases them, which can come out by December.

If you need any clarification please ask me.

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