On the 5th of December, 2012 the Puducherry Court granted relief to Radhikaranjan Das who was abruptly deprived of his Sanskrit classes in the middle of the last academic year by Manoj Das Gupta, Registrar of the Ashram School cum Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The Court granted an injunction restraining the Registrar and the Ashram Trustees from disturbing or depriving Radhikaranjan of his classes in the Ashram School. The court case was hard-fought by two of the best lawyers of Puducherry, Cyril Mathias Vincent and Palaniappan, who represented respectively the plaintiff (Radhikaranjan Das) and the respondents (Manoj Das Gupta, Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and four other Trustees). Despite the false allegations of the Managing Trustee on Radhikaranjan Das spoiling the minds of the children, the line of argument that the Trust lawyer took up in the Court was totally different. The point that was stressed by him was that there was no contractual or employer-employee relationship between Radhikaranjan Das and the Ashram Trust like in regular educational institutions. That whenever the inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram voluntarily came forward to offer their services to the Ashram as a means of their sadhana, the Trustees gave them work without assigning any reasons and without any written appointment. Therefore whenever the Trustees likewise felt that the inmate should be removed from his existing work, they could so without any written explanation whatsoever. This arbitrary method of administration was hotly contested by Radhikaranjan’s lawyer saying that it went against the basic principles of natural justice which required of the Registrar to give at least a chance to the aggrieved party to explain his position and demand a written explanation for the punishment meted out to him. As no reasonable and fair procedure was followed by the Registrar in dismissing Radhikaranjan from his work, it was prayed that the latter should not be deprived of his teaching work in the Ashram School. The Court granted this prayer after hearing out lengthy arguments from both the lawyers during the last six months.
Several embarrassing questions can be asked to the Registrar of the Ashram School. Why did he not take the line of argument that actually prompted his punitive action? Everybody in the Ashram knows that Radhikaranjan was removed from his teaching work because he criticised the Trustees for not taking any action against Peter Heehs. So why did not the Registrar simply say that Radhikaranjan was removed because he had criticised the Trustees? Why did he not bring up the issue of Radhikaranjan polluting the minds of the children by discussing about Peter Heehs in his classes? Why did he not take advantage of the much publicised gatta incident which had apparently “debrained” the son of the biggest loudmouth supporting the Trustees? (Radhikaranjan had been accused of administering a knock on the head of this student with his knuckles.) And what happened to the horrible game of Tarot cards by which he made ominous predictions regarding the health of the Managing Trustee? All this shows that these silly concoctions can only be gulped down by scared and gullible Ashramites and will not stand the test of law for one minute. Thus what generally happens is that the Trustees float a story for internal circulation (for Ashramites) while taking an altogether different stand on the same issue in the Court (which actually would make them unpopular). There is sometimes even a third version prepared for Government officials. In fact, from the reports that I have gathered, it seems that the Managing Trustee is so flexible and plastic in this respect (signs of inner growth, I suppose!) that he once declared his deep anguish regarding Peter Heehs’s book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo in the morning and rated it excellent in the evening of the same day to different persons. Mostly he chooses to play the game according to the person who confronts him and leaves him totally confounded with his shifting stands and clever manoeuvres – one of them is of making the other person feel that he fully agrees with him.
Readers should also be made aware that a case of contempt was filed against the Registrar cum Managing Trustee for having defied the ex-parte interim order of the Court at the very beginning of the court proceedings in June 2012. Now that the same injunction has been granted after hearing both parties, it has to be seen how the Registrar abides by the court ruling. There are signs of a thaw – Radhikaranjan has been informed by an emissary of the Registrar that his name will figure in the list of the teachers of Knowledge in the coming academic year starting on 16 December, 2012. But past experience has taught all those who have fought the Trustees in the Court that one has to be wary of such moves, because the intention of the Trust has always been to cheat the other side or to concede the barest minimum possible, and never to sort out matters in a healthy spirit of reconciliation. Radhikaranjan must be therefore careful about accepting this last offer, for the Trustees at present have thrown at him a few crumbs in order to give the public impression that his teaching work has been restored. The classes in Knowledge represent only ten percent of the total number of classes that he was taking in all the sections of the Ashram School. So when will his other classes be given back to him by the Registrar? Or will Radhikaranjan have to wait for another year, go through a further painstaking legal process and win the pending case of contempt against the Registrar in order to have the court order enforced by the Police? I earnestly hope that the Trustees wake up to common sense and reason and avoid such a shameful catastrophe!