Interpreting the Appeal as a New Construction of the Auroville Foundation Act
by Rod Hemsell
The Foundation’s appeal to set aside the order passed by the MHC on 12-8-22 consists primarily in an elaborate argument beginning on page 2 (bold 12) in which it maintains that the judge’s order is “contrary to law as well as facts.” The argument proceeds to create the appellant’s own construction of the AVF Act of 1988 in which it makes the GB the sole authority for the administration, planning and execution of Auroville, the residents are merely the workers, their relationship is that of management and labor, and the building of a physical city for 50,00 residents based on a Master Plan document promulgated in 1999 is the primary goal and purpose of Auroville. It was apparent from the minutes of its first meeting in November 2021 that this was the understanding and intention of the new GB and its Secretary, and all of the events leading up to this legal confrontation with the RA can be seen as the logical conclusion of their deliberate agenda to replace the original intent of the AVF Act by this new construction of its purpose, and to basically reverse its original intention. The arguments in the first few pages of the appeal give very clear examples of the nature of this agenda and how it wishes the Act to be understood according to its new construction.
It states on p. 16 (bold) that in the Act “primacy has been given to the GB since all actions require the approval of the GB.” Section 17e of the Act, to which the argument refers, states that the powers and functions of the GB shall be “to accord approval to the programmes of AV drawn up by the RA.”
On the same page, the appeal states that, “The AVF has been mandated by Parliament to develop and build the AV Township in accordance with the AV Master Plan, (sec 17e).” That article in the Act actually says only that the GB’s function is “to prepare a MP in consultation with the RA and to ensure development as so planned.” By this construction, the GB’s role is not to “accord approval” but to “develop and build the township.”
Not only has the role of the GB changed in this new construction but the purpose of Auroville itself has changed. The appeal states, “Living in Auroville comes with a commitment that goes beyond wanting to develop AV in accordance with the Charter. Wanting to develop AV in accordance with the Charter needs to find tangible expression in manifesting the ideals of AV and the development of the township for 50,000 residents.” It further states that “the universal township for 50,000 is an expression of Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a transition to a higher consciousness (p. 20).” In this argument of the appeal the building of a physical town has been confounded with the spiritual goal of the transformation of consciousness in the same was as the Secretary has often confounded “building the city” with the “Dream” of the Mother and the Charter of Auroville. The role of the GB is no longer, as the Act states, “to promote,” “to review,” “to monitor,” “to prepare,” “to approve,” but “to develop and build” which in this new construction of the Act it claims to be the “mandate of Parliament”.
The argument of the appeal claims that the intent of the Act is not collective decision making and it is not for the welfare of the residents. The residents are meant to be voluntary workers under the supervision of the GB management. The residents do not constitute a democratic assembly with the rights to self-rule. The relationship of the GB and the residents is not that of benefactor and beneficiary but of management and labor. The organization of Auroville is meant to be a hierarchic corporate structure with the GB as the sole administrative authority. It states that “the intent of the Act is not collective decision making, otherwise it would have provided for a single governance council with representatives of the residents instead of the hierarchical structure with three entities (p. 18).” “…it is absolutely clear that in the scheme of the Act, the GB alone has the power, superintendence, and management of the foundation (21).”