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The Bombay High Court has pulled up Pune Police for tardy progress into complaints of fraud, mismanagement and embezzlement of funds belonging to Osho trusts

By Abhay Vaidya in Pune

Hard-hitting strictures by the Bombay High Court against Pune Police for the slow pace of investigations into the alleged forgery of Osho’s will have now revived hopes of justice for thousands of his followers.

A series of orders were passed by Justices Naresh Patil and Prakash Naik of the Bombay High Court from August to October 2016, directing the Pune Police, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to take specific action on complaints of fraud, mismanagement and embezzlement of funds belonging to Osho trusts. 

The Court was unhappy that the Pune Police had achieved no progress in the investigations into a December 2013 complaint that Osho’s will had been forged. It directed the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) to supervise the investigations. It also made the ED and the RBI respondents in the case to examine whether funds belonging to Soho’s trusts in India were being illegally siphoned out of the country. Both the ED and the RBI informed the Court on October 7 that they had begun investigations into the matter.

FORGED WILL

Ever since the death of the spiritual mystic Osho, also known as “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh” on January 19, 1990, his erstwhile commune in Pune had been mired in a number of controversies. The most sensational of these relate to the “Last Will and Testament of Osho” which surfaced in a Spanish court, 23 years after his death. One group of Osho’s followers subjected a copy of this will to independent forensic examination and then alleged that it was a forged document. (See India Legal’s March 31, 2014, story, “Osho’s Will”.)

A series of orders were passed by Justices Naresh Patil and Prakash Naik of the Bombay High Court from August to October 2016, directing the Pune Police, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to take specific action on complaints of fraud, mismanagement and embezzlement of funds belonging to Osho trusts.

The High Court action was with regard to a June 20, 2016, criminal petition filed by Osho disciple Yogesh Thakkar (Swami Premgeet), managing trustee of the charitable trust, Osho Friends Foundation. Thakkar, in his petition against the State of Maharashtra and others, complained that for more than two years, the Koregaon Park Police Station had failed to make any substantial progress with regard to his FIR No. 149/13 dated 8.12.13 relating to the allegedly forged will of Osho and alleged financial irregularities in Osho trusts. Given the lethargy of the Pune Police, he urged the Bombay High Court to transfer the case to the CBI and also direct the Pune Police to file an action taken report.

Thakkar accused five Osho trustees—Swami Anand Jayesh (Michael O’Byrne), Swami Prem Amrito (Dr John Andrews), Mukesh Kantilal Sarda, Klaus Steeg (Sw. Pramod) and Osho’s personal attorney from 1982 to 1990, Philip Toelkes (Prem Niren)—of “siphoning off properties and income of royalties worth millions of US dollars” belonging to Osho’s charitable trusts in India—Neo Sannyas Foundation and Osho International Foundation. They were also accused of conspiring to create a fake will of Osho “as an afterthought” to bolster their claims to Osho’s intellectual properties.

Yogesh Thakkar and Kishore Raval have been waging a prolonged legal battle demanding transparency and accountability in the functioning of Osho’s trusts
Yogesh Thakkar and Kishore Raval have been waging a prolonged legal battle demanding transparency and accountability in the functioning of Osho’s trusts

Thakkar, a long-standing Osho disciple and a property agent based in Pune, along with his fellow disciple, Kishor Raval (Swami Prem Anadi) have been waging a protracted legal battle in courts and the Charity Commissionerate to demand transparency and accountability in the functioning of Osho’s trusts.

SPANISH COURT

Soon after Osho’s death, the Osho Commune had officially stated that he did not leave behind a will. However, a true copy of Osho’s will dated October 15, 1989, suddenly surfaced in June, 2013, in an “Osho” trademark case being contested in a Spanish court. This is the Trademark and Design Registration Office of the European Union at Alicante, Spain.

In that will, Osho bequeathed all his intellectual properties to a Swiss charitable trust, the Neo Sannyas International Foundation. These assets include copyrights to 9,000 hours of audio discourses in Hindi and English, 1,870 hours of video discourses, 650 titles of transcribed books in Hindi, English and more than 60 languages around the world and 850 paintings.

Osho disciple Yogesh Thakkar accused five Osho trustees of “siphoning off properties and income of royalties worth millions of US dollars” belonging to Osho’s charitable trusts in India. They were also accused of conspiring to create a fake will of Osho

The Court expressed disappointment with the police reply which stated that a copy of the will had been sent to handwriting experts in 2014 for verification and the report was awaited. To this, Justice Patil asked incredulously: “You have not received the report and have not done anything about it?” Subsequently, the Court observed that Assistant Public Prosecutor Sangeeta D Shinde submitted the government hand-writing expert’s report which had been perused by the Court.

The Court directed that the original will be traced for the purpose of investigation. Accordingly, the Maharashtra government wrote to the Union Home Ministry for permission to issue a Letter Rogatory to the Spanish court to obtain the original will.

These developments in the Bombay High Court have once again thrown the spotlight on Osho’s death and other controversies. The mystic’s followers are now eagerly looking forward to progress in the case and are hopeful that justice will be served, the guilty punished and accountability and transparency restored in the affairs of Osho’s trusts.

Lead picture: (L-R) Bombay High Court; A meditation session taking place in Osho ashram in Koregaon

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