NEW DELHI: Trustees of a charitable trust, who have filed a suit in 1997 against Kailash Satyarthi for alleged misappropriation of funds, today told a Delhi court that the Nobel laureate was deceiving the society in the name of social work, an allegation that he has denied.
Satyarthi said the litigation and allegations were aimed at “tarnishing his image at the instigation of people who are having vested interests.”
His counsel Pradeep Diwan claimed that his client was being dragged in the “frivolous” litigation which gained momentum only after he was conferred the award.
Additional District Judge (ADJ) Kamini Lau, however, was not convinced by this argument and said “work is more important. People who earn a name fall from it overnight also. So, let’s not get into that.”
Satyarthi in his application has sought a direction to the plaintiffs, trustees of the charitable trust, to deposit security for costs incurred or likely to be incurred by him and his wife to defend themselves in the matter.
The court, after hearing the arguments of both the parties, reserved the order on his interim application and fixed December 14 for pronouncement of its decision.
The plaintiffs, trustees of Mukti Pratishthan Trust, in their response to Satyarthi’s application, have said “unlike defendants (Satyarthi and his wife Sumedha), neither they are recipients of money in the form of salaries or otherwise nor do not have any personal monetary or material interest in the suit.”
They said they were being purposely burdened to somehow be deterred from pursuing the suit and back-track therefrom.
In his rejoinder to their response, Satyarthi has denied all the allegations.
The trustees in their suit against Satyarthi, who got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, have accused him and his wife of embezzling huge sums from the trust through maintainance of false accounts.
Satyarthi and his wife were earlier trustees of the trust but had parted ways with it in 1994.
During arguments, his lawyer told the court that in order to check if the litigation was genuine or frivolous one, the plaintiffs, one of whom is Bandhua Mukti Morcha leader Sheotaj Singh, should be asked to deposit costs of litigation in the pre-trial stage.
The judge, however, observed that “litigation cannot be scuttled or curtailed by putting pre-litigation expenses.
Otherwise, poor people cannot come to court.”
The trustees, in their reply to Satyarthi’s plea, have also alleged that he was holder of a “dubious” account under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act from where huge foreign donations were routed to the Trust.
Denying this allegation, Satyarthi said in the rejoinder that all his accounts were duly audited by a Chartered Accountant of the Trust and also by income tax authorities.
He also contended that it was Sheotaj Singh who, along with activist Swami Agnivesh, indulged in activities contrary to the interest of the Trust.
The plaint against Satyarthi and his wife has alleged that when Singh conducted an inquiry into the affairs and accounts of the Trust, he came to know that a “major part of the Trust funds, running into huge sums of money has been spent by defendants either on foreign trips and other luxuries or embezzled by way of falsification of accounts”.
The couple had earlier challenged maintainability of the suit and denied the allegations made in it.
They had alleged that the plaint was a proxy litigation filed in “collusion with their mentor Swami Agnivesh, a political figure and Arya Samaj leader who was putting pressure to grab the movable and immovable properties of the Trust”.
The court was earlier apprised about the missing records by the receiver who was appointed to look into various key aspects of the dispute and file a report.
The receiver had said the records in her possession were till 1987 while those thereafter could not be found at the earlier office of the Trust in Delhi.