Pune News : Rebel group halts bid to sell two plots of Osho Ashram in Koregaon Park

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Pune News : Rebel group halts bid to sell two plots of Osho Ashram in Koregaon Park

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By: Pune pulse

December 11, 2023

Pune: The sale of two plots measuring approximately 9,800 square meters in the prestigious Koregaon Park area to industrialist Rajivnayan Rahulkumar Bajaj has been stopped by the Charity Commissioner’s office.

This decision affects the Osho International Foundation (OIF), which is currently responsible for managing Pune’s renowned Osho Commune.

In an order dated December 7, the Charity Commissioner’s office has also directed OIF to refund ₹50 crores, which was received as the initial payment from industrialist Rajivnayan Rahulkumar Bajaj and Rishab Family Trust. The family trust is controlled by the renowned Indian auto industrialist’s family. The refund is to be made without any interest.

A team of two special auditors, appointed by the assistant charity commissioner of the greater Mumbai region, has been directed by the joint charity commissioner to conduct a special audit of the OIF affairs from 2005 to 2023. This order was issued by Ruby Malvankar, the Joint Charity Commissioner of Mumbai, in response to objections raised by a rival group regarding the sale of Osho land. The audit is required to be completed within one month from the date of the order.

The joint charity commissioner’s order declares that the applicant trust (OIF) has not demonstrated a serious and urgent need to authorize the proposed transfer of leasehold rights or any other legal transaction for the alienation of the leasehold trust property to the prospective buyer, Rajivnayan Rahulkumar Bajaj and Rishab Family Trust.

The order additionally states that Mukesh Sarda, the applicant trustee, failed to address various crucial aspects of accounting and financial entries and neglected to provide clarification on important details. In contrast, he provided ambiguous and irresponsible responses to numerous accounting-related inquiries. Consequently, due to the financial decline of OIF, it is imperative to conduct a comprehensive examination of the ledgers, books of accounts, and other accounting entries.

This necessitates the implementation of a special audit under section 33(4) of the MPT Act. The scrutiny should encompass the previous years, specifically from 2005 until the present, in order to facilitate the submission of thorough and comprehensive reports by the special auditor.

In response to the directive, Maa Sadhana, the spokesperson for OIF, stated that they will adhere to the prescribed legal procedures in relation to the recent order issued by the charity commissioner.

The OIF argued in its application that due to the financial crisis, it is compelled to sell its rights in the mentioned property, which would serve as a valuable source of income for the OIF. This decision was approved during the governing body meeting of the OIF on July 20, 2020. Consequently, the OIF, with the assistance of its legal advisor, released a tender notice on September 1, 2020, in various newspapers, inviting the general public to submit sealed offers for the acquisition of rights in the aforementioned property.

The OIF has also acquired a valuation report dated October 20, 2020, from a private valuer, which assessed the property at Rs 921,100,000. The trustees of OIF have submitted an application under section 36(1)(a) of the Maharashtra Public Trust Act, 1950, requesting permission to sell the OIF’s immovable property situated in Koregaon Park. In their application, the OIF has argued that due to the current situation in India and worldwide, as well as the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing impact of COVID-19, it will not be feasible to resume meditation activities in the foreseeable future. This has significantly affected the OIF’s cash flow, creating a pressing need for funds to fulfill its financial obligations. Consequently, a situation has arisen where the OIF will have no income for an extended period, while still incurring fixed costs for maintaining the premises and properties.

In response to the public notice, the OIF received three offers. After deliberation, the OIF deemed the offer from Rajivnayan Rahulkumar Bajaj and Rishab Family Trust to be suitable for its objectives and purposes. Consequently, on November 30, 2020, a unanimous resolution was passed by the OIF, agreeing to transfer its rights to the successful bidder. Subsequently, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was entered into with Rajivnayan Bajaj on December 8, 2020. As per the conditions stated in the public notice, Rajivnayan Bajaj also fulfilled the requirement by paying an earnest amount of Rs50 crores through a demand draft.

Advocates Tinesh Shahani, Mukesh Shah, and Vaibhav Mehta, who represent the objectors, issued a joint statement expressing their appreciation for the joint charity commissioner’s order on December 7, 2023. The order rejected the OIF’s application seeking permission to sell both of its properties, which are estimated to be worth around Rs107 crores. The advocates referred to the order as a landmark and historic decision.

The decision to sell the plots was made without obtaining permission from the charity commissioner. The primary objective behind this action was to eradicate the legacy of Osho and the greenery in the Koregaon Park area. The trustees of OIF, who have been serving as trustees for approximately 30 years, established shell private limited companies and assumed directorship roles in these companies. The purpose behind creating these shell companies was to divert the income of the once prosperous OIF for their own wrongful gain. In our joint statement, we presented the audited statement of accounts, which included entries from the pre-pandemic, pandemic, and post-pandemic eras up until 2023.