Court appointed officer finds financial mismanagement in Satyarthi’s trust

Court appointed officer finds financial mismanagement in Satyarthi’s trust

By ABHIMANYU SINGH | NEW DELHI | 18 October, 2015
An interim report submitted by a court appointed Receiver, to ascertain facts in view of the case filed by the trustees of Mukti Pratishthan Trust (MPT) against Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, has found prima facie instances of financial mismanagement. The MPT was helmed by Satyarthi from its inception in the 1980s until 1994. According to sources close to Satyarthi, he was forcibly ousted from the MPT by the new trustees, but this charge could not be independently verified. Four sources close to Satyarthi claimed that all the charges of financial mismanagement were untrue. 
The trustees filed a case in a Delhi court in 1997 alleging financial mismanagement by Satyarthi, who was awarded a Nobel Prize last year. The main complainant in the case, Sheo Taj Singh, is general secretary of the NGO Bandhuwa Mukti Morcha, an organisation founded by Swami Agnivesh. Singh denied that Satyarthi was forcibly ousted from MPT. According to Singh, Satyarthi left on his own following a dispute between him and other members of BMM. “We were running a campaign against children being used in factories in UP to manufacture carpets. As a result of our campaign, foreign companies stopped buying the carpets. Hence, a body was formed which would certify carpets as being child-labour free and only those could be imported. Satyarthi accepted the position of a director in the body to which we were opposed as it seemed to us to be a matter of conflict of interest. As a result, he started to distance himself from BMM,” claimed Singh. A source close to Satyarthi, however, said that BMM’s objection to Satyarthi taking up the position was more due to envy at his rise than any moral objection. The source added that Agnivesh had nothing to do with the MPT. However, according to Singh, MPT received the funding from foreign and other donors which was passed on to organisations like BMM which carried out the activities.
In an email response to The Sunday Guardian, Pradeep Diwan, Senior Advocate for Kailash Satyarthi, made the following statement on the controversy related to the properties of the Mukti Pratishthan Trust:  “Criminal conspiracy masterminded by Swami Agnivesh in cohorts with Sheo Taj Singh has insinuated this case. These musclemen have not only forcibly occupied properties of the Mukti Pratishthan Trust as observed by the Court appointed Receiver, but also made a child welfare trust defunct. Along with their musclemen, they continue to make a mockery of the judicial process by resorting to delaying tactics and not appearing in court. Court Receiver has complained against Swami Agnivesh and his men for obstruction of justice to The Connaught Place Police Station. We urge the Honourable Court to appoint a Chartered Accountant at the earliest or issue any such directions that move this case towards its logical conclusion and bring these nuisance makers to justice. Further we once again appeal to the humane side of these musclemen to evict the facilities meant for welfare of oppressed children who are the rightful beneficiaries of all these assets and not use them for political activities or personal gains.”
The interim report was filed by the Receiver Rana Parveen Siddiqui on 7 August 1998. It has been exclusively accessed in full by The Sunday Guardian. Siddiqui, when contacted, refused to comment on the findings of the report although she stood by it. She reiterated that she had been unable to file a final report as instructed by the court since she needed the help of a financial expert, preferably a chartered accountant to prepare it. Siddiqui had moved an application for the same on 25 October 2007. The CA had to be appointed with the consent of both parties but it has not yet come to pass. On 30 January 2015, the court directed both the parties to suggest five names each of CAs so that one of them could be appointed to help the Receiver prepare her final report, failing which the court would appoint one on its own after obtaining a list from the Institute of Chartered Accountants. On 3 October 2015, the court framed 12 issues of the case, with the onus on the defendants Satyarthi and others to prove two of them exclusively, and two others together with the plaintiffs. The remaining issues are to be proved by the plaintiffs. According to the interim report, “cursory reading of the account books revealed some serious financial irregularities but the thorough examination would require the services of an expert accountant preferably of a chartered accountant.”
It goes on to adduce some examples. “For example, a large number of disbursement have been shown in cash book of Mukti Pratishthan pertaining to the year 1-1-87 to 31-12-87 but the vouchers do not bear the signatures of the recipients. Likewise, the thumb impressions on another set of vouchers appear to be the same on different vouchers. For verification of these thumb impressions and signatures the services of a forensic/handwriting expert are required.”
The receiver added in her report that “from 1994 end, all the activities of Mukti Pratishthan Trust have been stopped, as told by Mr. Kailash Satyarthi.” This was, according to Satyarthi, the foreign donors stopped making payments following an enquiry which found Agnivesh “guilty”, but this finding could not be independently verified by this newspaper. According to the report, Satyarthi started working with Association of Voluntary Action to which monies were sent by donor agencies subsequently.  
The report mentions that the entry of the Receiver at 7, Jantar Mantar Road, when she went to collect documents for the second time was blocked by Sheo Taj Singh and Swami Agnivesh: “I was not allowed to execute my duty by Mr. Sheotaj Singh and Swami Agnivesh. He threatened to throw me out if I touched anything in the office.”  However, Agnivesh told this newspaper that the Receiver tried to enter the office without any proper intimation to any office-bearer (Swami Agnivesh interview: http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/1555-%E2%80%98no-substance-satyarthi%E2%80%99s-charges%E2%80%99).
Sources close to Satyarthi claimed that the Income-Tax department had conducted audits for the year 1989 to 1994 which stated that the books were in order.

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