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Will CBI step in to crack Osho’s ‘forged will’ case?

Pune-based petitioner has alleged forgery of Osho’s will and multi-million dollar foreign exchange fraud by Osho International Foundation

pune Updated: Sep 26, 2017 21:23 IST
Abhay Vaidya
The Osho ashram in Pune.
The Osho ashram in Pune.(HT Photo)

The Bombay High Court is slated to hear submissions from the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) on September 27 with regards to taking up investigations into the alleged forged will of the Indian spiritual guru Osho, previously known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

During a previous hearing in the case on September 12, a division bench of justices RV More and Sadhana Jadhav upheld petitioner Yogesh Thakkar’s submission through his counsel Pradeep Havnur, to make CBI and Union of India respondents in the case. Accordingly, the bench directed the court registry to issue notices to the respondents to be returnable on September 27.

The proceedings related to Criminal Writ Petition No. 2150 of 2016 and criminal applications 383, 403, 415 of 2016 along with Writ Petition No. 1572/2017. This development is seen as a major turning point in the cases relating to allegations of Osho’s forged will, embezzlement of funds by trustees and violations under Fera (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973).

On August 12, Justices Naresh H Patil and Prakash D Naik had directed that the RBI and the ED (enforcement directorate) be made respondents in Writ Petition No. 2150 relating to Osho’s “forged will” and alleged “transfer of huge amounts from the Osho Ashram to foreign entities in violation of law”.

A copy of the Last Will and Testament in question. (HT)

The petitioner Yogesh Thakkar, also known by his sannyas name, Swami Premgeet has been an ardent follower of Osho for more than three decades now. According to his petition, a document stated to be Osho’s Last Will and Testament surfaced in legal proceedings in Spain, 23 years after Osho’s death. A photocopy of that document was subjected to forensic examination and was found to be forged.

In their order, the high court bench of justices Patil and Naik said that this needed to be investigated thoroughly. “Without expressing any opinion on the said experts’ reports, we find it appropriate to observe that Investigating Agency shall take necessary steps for making further investigation in respect of the allegations made by the petitioner,” their order said.

This order also directed “DCP (crime), Pune, to give appropriate instructions to the Investigating Officer and monitor the further investigations”, and submit a status report by the next date of hearing.

The petitioner has accused Osho International Foundation (OIF), Switzerland, and trustees Mukesh Sarda, Michael Byrne, John Andrews, D’Arcy Byrne and Klaus Steeg of fraud to the tune of over ₹1,000 crore.

This includes income derived from the sale and royalty of Osho’s books, DVDs, auction of Osho’s robes, caps, socks, footwear, Osho ‘signature painting’” and other paintings by Osho. Also included are Osho digital products such as online radio, TV, tarot, music, lectures, etc.

The petitioner has noted that Osho’s intellectual property archives includes 9,000 hours of audio discourses and speeches in Hindi and English; 1,870 hours of video discourses and speeches; and 650 titles of transcribed books in English and Hindi which are being translated in 65 languages across the world.

The petitioner has alleged that income derived from the sale of Osho’s intellectual properties, including unique meditation techniques, is being diverted to entities outside India. They have argued that this income rightfully belongs to the public charitable trusts in India.

The petitioner has demanded that a police complaint pending before the economic offences wing (EOW), Mumbai, dated 9 February, 2017, be registered as an FIR and that the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 be invoked to look into this “multi-million dollar fraud”.

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