BENGALURU: Stating that even spiritual organisations are bound by law, the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday directed the Isha Foundation, led by Jaggi Vasudev (Sadghuru), to disclose details of money collected for the Cauvery Calling project and also the manner in which it was collected.
Expressing displeasure over not specifying the name of the ‘authorised signatory’ and whether the collection of funds was voluntary or not in the statement of objections filed by the foundation, the court asked the latter what it was doing in the name of spirituality.
While hearing a PIL filed by city-based advocate A V Amarnathan against the project, the division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar directed the foundation to file additional objections containing the above issues.
Going through the objections filed by the foundation, the bench pointed out that it had nowhere mentioned that the contributions were voluntary. During the hearing, the foundation’s counsel contended that it was creating awareness among public, especially farmers, about the environment through the project. The bench said that though the cause was good, it cannot be embarked upon by forcing people to pay money.
Meanwhile, the bench also asked as to why there was no enquiry about the money being collected by the foundation. In reply, the state government submitted that state was not sponsoring the project in question, but the foundation was joining them in the Krishi Aranya Project.
Questioning the rationale behind collecting Rs 42 per sapling from the public as part of the campaign by the foundation, the petitioner asked the court to issue directions to stop the collection. According to the petitioner, the foundation plans to plant 253 crore saplings to save the Cauvery basin. “If Rs 42 is collected per sapling, the total amount will be Rs 10,626 crore. The state cannot be quiet about allowing the foundation to collect such a huge amount to do work on government land,” the petitioner claimed.
Isha Foundation replies
In the statement of objections, the foundation stated that the amount required to meet the expenses of maintaining saplings planted on private land, as part of the project, was being collected from the public. The cost of a sapling varies from Rs 3 to 30. In addition to that, the manpower costs, training farmers and other costs will bring the cost to Rs 100 per sapling. At present, 69,760 farmers have come forward to provide their land for planting saplings.