The Karnataka High Court has converted the public interest litigation filed against Isha Foundation collecting money from farmers to fund its Cauvery Calling initiative into a suo-motu petition.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Sreeniwas Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi had directed the petitioner Amarnathan AV, an advocate from Bengaluru, to justify his act of sending three emails to Discovery Channel about airing a programme on the Cauvery Calling project.
In his affidavit in response, Amarnathan justified his conduct saying that he did not threaten the channel but informed them that airing the programme on Cauvery Calling may attract contempt of court. Amarnathan sent three emails to Discovery Channel and they were brought to the notice of the High Court which took exception to his conduct pointing out that a petitioner cannot decide if airing the program will amount to contempt of court.
The programme on Cauvery Calling was scheduled to air on August 24 but after receiving the legal intimation from Amarnathan, it was postponed.
The court then decided that it cannot allow the petitioner to prosecute the petition as a pro-bono litigant. The next hearing in the case will be on November 3.
The High Court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the Karnataka government for supporting Cauvery Calling, a nationwide agroforestry project focused on the Cauvery river. Since its launch in September 2019, the foundation, which enjoys the patronage of celebrities, industrialists and politicians, has collected enough money to plant over 5 crore trees through contributions from the public.
Isha Foundation submitted to the High Court in March this year that its social development branch Isha Outreach was dealing with Cauvery Calling.
While hearing the case, the Karnataka High Court asked Isha to clarify what is the Karnataka government's role in Cauvery Calling.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa announced in September 2019 that the forest department in the state would set aside two crore saplings for Cauvery Calling but an affidavit in the High Court stated Cauvery Calling was contributing to a government scheme of the Karnataka Forest Department – Krishi Aranya Protsaha Yojane (KAPY). The affidavit made no mention of the two crore saplings that Isha can use.
The PIL will now be converted into a suo motu case with the court appointing an amicus curaie to assist the court.