Madras High Court: the Foundation office appeal on the judgment of 12/08/2022
On 26 August 2022, an appeal bench of the Madras High Court gave an interim order that temporarily suspended the ruling that a single High Court judge sitting on 12 August had given. The 12 August Ruling:
- quashed (ie declared invalid) an Office Order by which the Governing Board (GB) unilaterally reconstituted Auroville’s Town Development Council (ATDC); and
- quashed a communication of 6 May 2022 by which the GB, through its “Officer on Special Duty,” sought to suspend RA activities like Decision Making Processes (RADs). The effect of the 6 May communication was that the RA’s choice of members for its Working Committee were replaced by the GB with its own handpicked members. These handpicked members had been comprehensively rejected by the RA.
The 26 August interim order was given because the Court found that the 12 August Ruling had gone beyond the narrow requests that the Aurovilian petitioners had made of the High Court in their writ petitions. This means that, for now, the GB’s handpicked members of the ATDC and the Working Committee can stay in office.
The 26 August interim order was applied for by the Auroville Foundation Office (AVFO) as part of an appeal it has lodged against the 12 August Ruling.
The grounds of appeal that the AVF have lodged seek the Auroville Foundation Act 1988 (to be interpreted in a manner that defeats the accepted interpretation that gives the three statutory Authorities (the Governing Board, the International Advisory Council, and the Residents’ Assembly) an equal standing. Mr Justice Quddhose said on 12 August that “The nature of the enactment shows that there is no place for egoistic thinking as all the three authorities will have to jointly work for the achievement of ‘The Mother’s’ Charter. The relationship between the three authorities is of mutuality.”
The AVFO does not accept this principle of mutuality. It has argued that “the Governing Board is the supreme authority under the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988.” The consequence would be an adoption of top down decision-making where, amongst other matters:
- The GB’s requirement to consult the RA is only “in a limited sphere”;
- Aurovilians are to be regarded as merely “voluntary workers as part of a Sangha, not a democratic assembly of residents claiming rights to self-rule”; and
- “The entire lands [of Auroville], properties, undertakings vest with the central government and the central government has delegated all its powers to the foundation, which in turn are managed by the Governing Board.”
Communication of the RA Working Committee regards to the appeal:
An appeal by the Secretary against the judgment of 12th August, which was passed by a single judge of the Madras High Court, was heard by an appellate bench of 2 judges led by the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court yesterday, 26th August.
Along with the grounds of appeal, the appellants (Secretary) also filed an affidavit for staying of the judgment of the single judge. After hearing the lawyers representing the Secretary, Auroville Foundation, and the lawyers representing petitioners (Hemant for the Working Committee and Krishna for the TDC), an interim stay order for two weeks has been passed. The main ground was that the directions given by the single judge are beyond the ‘prayers’ in our writ petition because we did not request for the staying of policy decisions of the GB and IAC. A counter affidavit will be prepared by our lawyer and the matter will be posted for hearing after two weeks. It was clarified that the stay will not affect the hearings of any of the other writ petitions, including one concerning the FAMC, but we are awaiting the uploaded copy of the order for verification.
We will keep the community updated about developments in this complex and challenging transitional phase. Through it all we must uphold our confidence and faith, and stay strong and united.
Your Working Committee
Aravinda, Bharathy, Chali, Hemant, Mael, Sauro, Valli
The AVFO has also appealed the judgment of the NGT dated 28th April, 2022. For the Tribunal, the appellate Court is the Supreme Court of India. The appeal is listed for the 29th of August.
The additional petition filed by the Aurovilian who initially filed the original complaint to the NGT will be heard again on the 29th of August. The hearing will include a consideration of the recent report of the Joint Committee.