On Tuesday, LiveLaw reported that the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday asked Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation to disclose how much money it has collected for its Cauvery Calling campaign. The bench, led by Chief Justice Abhay Oka, was hearing a petition filed against the foundation for collecting money from farmers to fund the initiative.
According to the LiveLaw report, division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar told the foundation, ““Even spiritual matters have to be bound by law. In the name of spirituality, what all are you doing? Do not be under the impression that you are not bound by law because you are a spiritual organisation.”
The court also said, “If someone is creating awareness of rejuvenation activity, it is most welcome but not by forcibly collecting funds,”. The court also asked the organization, “Under what authority are you collecting money from farmers? Where is the affidavit stating that you have not forced people to pay money?”
The Karnataka HC further asked the foundation to file an affidavit declaring how much money it has collected for ‘Cauvery Calling’ and how. The court also pulled up the Karnataka government, who is also a respondent in the case, why the state was quiet when this money was being collected.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by A.V. Amarnathan, a lawyer, in September 2019 who requested the court to ask why Isha Foundation was asking for people to donate Rs 42 per tree. “I have stated that to collect money, there should be a trust, society or company but Cauvery Calling is not a registered organisation,” AV Amarnathan, the petitioner in the case told TNM.
The court observed that Cauvery Calling was not a registered society and is not authorised by the state or the Centre to collect funds.
Cauvery Calling is a campaign focused on the Cauvery river. The Isha Foundation claims it will plant 242 crore trees along the Cauvery river under the umbrella of the Rally for Rivers, a campaign launched by the same foundation earlier.
The project aims to achieve the twin purposes of arresting the depletion of the Cauvery’s water flow and the distress of farmers through the planting of trees. The project’s official website says its goal is to plant “242 crore trees”, out of which 4,66,93,937 have been “contributed till now.” The cost of each “tree” is a Rs 42.
The project has garnered support from the likes of climate activist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, but remains controversial with civil society groups alleging its methods could be overtly simplistic and populist.
“The court also pulled up the state government for not carrying an independent inquiry on the complaints of the foundation allegedly collecting funds forcibly,” reported LiveLaw.
The matter will be next heard on February 12.