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Madras HC: Trustees to stay, “No” to Govt. administrator and inquiry

August 31, 2013

Anti-Ashram elements led by Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, R.Y. Deshpande and their associates have suffered another major setback in their attempts to make a hostile take-over of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The Madras High Court has ordered that the heaps of false allegations framed by these anti-Ashram elements against the trustees of the Ashram will not be inquired by the Government appointed Collector. A retired judge will instead probe the allegations that are being made against the S.A. Ashram trust. Moreover, and of equal significance, the demands made by the anti-Ashram elements, asking the trustees to step down till the inquiry is over as well as the appointment of a Government administrator to run the Ashram in the interim period, have also been turned down by the Madras High Court. The stories as reported in the media are reproduced below.

It is important that the Government appointed Collector has been denied the authority to investigate the allegations that were being framed by anti-Ashram elements who have sought the patronage of Ashok Anand, the MLA from Puducherry. The Government and its servants can be made to buckle under the influence of politicians who can pressure them to serve the vested interests they represent. Interestingly, the Collector’s initial and unilateral decision to conduct an inquiry into the Ashram’s affairs without following a due-process has put the Government in a bind, making it unable and untenable for it to conduct such an inquiry. It is hoped and trusted that the retired judge shall conduct a fair and proper probe in which any wrong-doers will be brought to book. Will the trouble-making, anti-Ashram elements get caught in their own net?

Copy of media reports:

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CHENNAI: Madras high court has appointed a retired judge of the Kerala high court to probe the allegations of sexual harassment and misappropriation of funds at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust in Puducherry. It, however, rejected pleas for dissolution of the trust and appointment of a neutral administrator to run the ashram.

On Friday, Justice KK Sasidharan, passing final orders on petitions filed both by the ashram and against it, named PR Raman, former judge of the Kerala HC, as inquiry officer by consent of both sides. The judge, who will be assisted by advocate Sathya Sri Priya Easwaran of Kochi, will probe whether there is any truth in four allegations – sexual harassment of women and children; violation of human rights and denial of fundamental rights to the inmates; misappropriation of funds and illegal sale and lease of ashram properties.

Saying the inquiry should be concluded as early as possible, Justice Sasidharan adjourned the matter to November 4 for further proceedings.

The matter relates to an inquiry by district collector of Puducherry into the affairs of the ashram, following complaints by some residents of the ashram and local MLA Ashok Anand. The ashram challenged the inquiry in the HC, which stayed it on October 5, 2012. Since then, the stay was extended periodically.

Counsel for the ashram told the court it was not against an inquiry into the complaints. “The objection was only against the collector conducting an inquiry into the matter with a pre-determined mind,” he said. In his counter-affidavit, the collector, however, said opportunity would be given to the ashram to submit its response.

Justice Sasidharan, pointing out the objection was only against the appointment of collector as the inquiry officer and not against inquiry as such, asked whether the parties would agree if a retired judge of a HC is named the inquiry officer. Following their consent, he named Raman to conduct the investigation.

Rejecting the inmates’ demand for dissolution of the ashram trust and appointment of an administrator, Justice Sasidharan said a suit for framing a scheme for the administration of the ashram was pending before a district court. “We cannot expand the scope of the petition by appointing an administrator to manage the affairs of the ashram during the currency of inquiry,” he said.

Ashram sources said they are happy with the order. “We are never afraid of facing any inquiry. We were concerned with the unfair and partisan manner in which the inquiry was sought to be conducted by the district collector,” said a representative of the trust.

Earlier this year, Puducherry CM N Rangasamy had told the assembly that his government would decide on appointing administrators to oversee the trust’s functioning after some MLAs alleged financial mismanagement and other irregularities in the ashram. The announcement triggered protests from inmates of the ashram and followers of the revolutionary-turned-poet-philosopher.

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Ex-HC judge to probe irregularities at Aurobindo Ashram

August 31, 2013

Justice P.R. Raman of Kochi, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, will enquire into allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry.

An order to this effect was passed by Justice K.K. Sasidharan of the Madras High Court on a writ petition by the ashram trust. The trust was aggrieved by the territorial government’s action in nominating the Puducherry Collector to enquire into the ashram affairs following complaints by some ashram inmates and a local legislator, to flare up the issue.

Mr.Justice Sasidharan directed the Puducherry Chief Secretary to treat the enquiry officer (EO) as a State Guest and provide him all required facilities for conducting an impartial enquiry.

The ashram and others should extend their cooperation to the officer to hold the enquiry in a free atmosphere. The inmates should be given full freedom to express their views and grievances. The EO would also enquire whether there was alleged violation of human rights and denial of fundamental rights to the inmates, whether there was misappropriation of ashram funds and whether there was truth in the allegation of illegal sale and lease of ashram property by the trustees. Counsel submitted that the ashram was not against any enquiry with regard to the complaints. Its objection was only against the Collector conducting the enquiry with a pre-determined mind.

Mr. Justice Sasidharan said there was no dispute that the ashram was an institution of international repute. The issues raised by some ashram members, MLA Ashok Anand, and others should not result in lowering the ashram’s image. Since the petitioner and the authorities had agreed on the enquiry by Mr.Justice Raman, he was of the view that the former Judge should be appointed as EO. Sathya Sri Priya Easwaran, an advocate of Kochi, suggested by the EO, has been appointed to record the statements of women inmates of the ashram.

The matter has been posted for November 4.

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Justice Raman to probe into allegations against Ashram

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Madras High Court has appointed Justice P R Raman, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, as the inquiry officer to go into the sexual and other allegations against Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Puducherry.

Justice K K Sasidharan, who passed interim orders on a petition filed by Managing Trustee of the Ashram Manoj Das Gupta, challenging the order initiating an inquiry by Puducherry government.

Some of the inmates of the Sri Arabindo Ashram Trust had complained against certain others alleging various acts, which were detrimental to their peaceful living in the Ashram.

One Vishnu Lalit, aggrieved by the publication of a book titled ‘The Lives of Sri Aurobido’ made an attempt to conduct dharna in front of the Ashram and he was supported by a local MLA Ashok Anand.

Deputy Collector (Revenue) pursuant to the complaint made by the MLA and others, summoned Gupta for inquiry and further put up a notice in the Ashram seeking the inmates to disclose any information that they would like to state in the matter.

Gupta moved the Madras High Court against this.

The High Court had already granted an interim stay on the inquiry initiated by Puducherry government on October 5 last year, which was periodically extended.

When the matter came up for hearing on July 31, 2013, the counsel for the Ashram submitted that though they were not against the inquiry their objection was only with regard to the Collector conducting the probe into the matter “with a pre-determined mind.”

When the matter came up again, both the government and the Ashram agreed for appointing Justice Raman as inquiry officer into the matter.

Justice Raman would enquire into allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in the Ashram, violation of human rights and denial of fundamental rights to the inmates, misappropriation of Ashram funds, illegal sale and lease of Ashram properties by the trustees, the judge said.

Puducherry Collector was directed to hand over all the complaints received by him against the Ashram to the enquiry officer forthwith.

The matter is posted for further hearing on November 4.

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– The Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram – 

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4 Comments
  1. Compliments! The S.A.Trust will be cleared of all charges by this impartial inquiry.

  2. Dayanand permalink

    It is not enough if the Ashram is exonerted of the false charges.Those who made these wild allegations must be punished once and for ever

  3. Don’t agree with the idea of punishment. One of the ways to understand human realities is to remember that we human beings are evolved animals with varying degrees of development, varying stages of intellectual abilities to comprehend things, to broaden the horizon, to interpret events and happenings. We all have different mental capacities to control thoughts, impulses, desires, emotions, egos. Fundamentalism, fanaticism is the result of lack of certain intellectual broadness and psychic development. As Sri Aurobindo writes:

    “Religious fanaticism is something psychologically lowborn and ignorant — and usually in its action fierce, cruel and base.” — Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, p. 490

    The lasting solution is not punishment, but progress…our own growth in the consciousness. Manoj Das Gupta, the managing Trustee, and Peter Heehs, both have shown tremendous intellectual maturity and flexibility in handling the situation. During the time of conflict over the publication of the uncensored edition of the Mother’s Agenda, neither then Managing Trustee Cunumma nor Satprem were able to display this level of maturity and broadness of vision, flexibility and calmness.

  4. It is very easy for intellectuals to say that there be no punishment ….because they have not fought a war .War is sometimes necessary and so is extirpation and even decimation of anti divine elements . Else there is no need for the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna and our own Mother .

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