The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday asked Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation to disclose how much funds it has collected for its Cauvery Calling initiative. The bench, led by Chief Justice Abhay Oka was hearing a petition filed against Isha Foundation collecting money from farmers to fund the initiative.
“Creating awareness about river rejuvenation is a good cause, but it should not be done at the cost of forcing people to pay money. Under what authority are you collecting money from farmers? Where is the affidavit stating that you have not forced people to pay money?” the court asked.
The court observed that Cauvery Calling was not a registered society and is not authorised by the state or the Centre to collect funds.
“Even spiritual matters have to be bound by law. In the name of spirituality, what all are you doing? Don't be under the impression that if you are a spiritual organisation, you are not bound by law,” the court said, as per LiveLaw.
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 High Court also asked the foundation to disclose whether Cauvery Calling is a trust, to which the government’s counsel stated that it was a movement.
“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 foundation has been asked to respond by February 12 during the next hearing in the case.
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 petition was filed in September 2019 questioning the Karnataka government’s decision to support Cauvery Calling. Amarnath in his petition had questioned why Isha Foundation was asking for people to donate Rs 42 per tree.
"The Isha Foundation is planning to plant 253 crores plants to save Cauvery river. The report states that the Isha Foundation is collecting Rs. 42/- per tree planting from the public. That means the Isha Foundation is collecting a sum of Rs, 10,626/- crores. This collection of money from the public is very disturbing," argued the petitioner.