New Nandagram Society for Krishna Consciousness has recently launched a lawsuit against natural people who are either negligent or criminal with Srila Prabhupada’s copyrights. The causes of action (reasons for the lawsuit) include:
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty (being irresponsible with Srila Prabhupada’s property)
- Accounting (not being transparent with Srila Prabhupada’s assets)
- Conversion (theft of the copyrights from the BBT to a suspiciously similarly named corporation, the BBTI)
- Conspiracy (defendants claimed, in court, that Srila Prabhupada never owned his copyrights)
- Constructive Fraud
Below is the text of the lawsuit. It is necessarily written in legalese, but the main points should be quite clear:
COMMON LAW COURT
THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS
LEWIS COUNTY, WASHINGTON, USA COURT #001
NEW NANDAGRAM SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS,
a common law trust, and
Emil Beca (Svavasa das), natural person
Jay Israel (Jayadvaita M), natural person
Norman D’Costa (Naresvara das), natural person
Michael Auggenthaler, natural person
Gregory Stein (Gopal Bhatta das), natural person
Howard Resnik (Hrdayananda das), natural person
Robert Grant (Ramesvara das), natural person
Steven Guarino (Satsvarupa das), natural person
Gordon John Erdman II (Jayapataka M), natural person
Acyutatma Das, natural person
Anuttama Das, natural person
Badrinarayan Swami, natural person
Bhakti Bhrnga Govinda Swami, natural person
Bhakti Caitanya Swami, natural person
Bhakti Charu Swami, natural person
Bhakti Purusottama Swami, natural person
Bhakti-bhusana Swami, natural person
Bhaktimarga Swami, natural person
Bhaktivaibhava Swami, natural person
Bhanu Swami, natural person
Bir Krishna Das Goswami, natural person
Caitanya Chandra Charan Das, natural person
Candrasekhar Acarya Das, natural person
Devamrita Swami, natural person
Dina Sharana Devi Dasi, natural person
Giridhari Swami, natural person
Gopal Krishna Goswami, natural person
Guru Prasad Swami, natural person
Hrdaya Caitanya Das, natural person
Kavicandra Swami, natural person
Madhu Sevita Das, natural person
Malati Devi Dasi, natural person
Niranjana Swami, natural person
Praghosa Das, natural person
Prahladananda Swami, natural person
Radha Krishna Das, natural person
Radhanath Swami, natural person
Ramai Swami, natural person
Revati Raman Das, natural person
Romapada Swami, natural person
Sesa Das, natural person
Virabahu Das, natural person
Radhadyuti devi dasi, natural person
Ranjit das, natural person
DOES one through ninety-nine,
CASE No. 001
PLAINTIFF, NEW NANDAGRAM SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS (NNSKC), sues the natural persons named above for money damages and states:
This is an action for money damages due to breach of fiduciary responsibilities.
The plaintiff is a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a common law trust, which is an international community composed of individuals and entities who are endeavoring to follow the teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The defendants are an international group of natural persons and who are have positions of power and control of money due to the teachings of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The plaintiff is unable to obtain justice through the State or Federal Court system due to the prohibitive costs involved.
Taking a complaint to a Common Law Court is a universally acceptable way to achieve equity.
A Common Law Court convened in Lewis County, Washington, USA has jurisdiction.
GENERAL FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
In 1972, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Prabhupada) formed the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), a California Trust.
The Trust Document places the copyrights for Srila Prabhupada’s books under the control of Trustees for the benefit of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
The Trust Document directs that half of the revenue from the sales of books be used to keep the books in print and half of the revenue be used to purchase or maintain temples of the beneficiary.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a common law trust made up of individuals and legal entities who are followers and disciples of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
New Nandagram Society for Krishna Consciousness (NNSKC), a common law trust, considers itself a part of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and lists its purposes as being almost identical to the purposes of ISKCON INC., the first organization incorporated by Srila Prabhupada.
NNSKC is a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
NNSKC s is a beneficiary of the BBT.
COUNT ONE: BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY
On or about Feb. 17, 2019 Anuttama Budd (Anuttama), a director for NNSKC, contacted the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc. (BBTI) by phone.
Anuttama spoke with a devotee named Ranjit who identified himself as the BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, a California trust) secretary.
Anuttama asked Ranjit about the procedure for a beneficiary of the BBT to apply for funds from the BBT Building Fund.
At Ranjit’s request, Anuttama e-mailed her request for information regarding Building Fund Grants to the BBTI.
Ranjit’s e-mail response to Anuttama’s request was that Anuttama was not a beneficiary of the Trust and that he’d forwarded Anuttama’s e-mail to Naresvara (Norman D’Costa) whom he identified as a trustee of the BBT.
Anuttama also wrote an e-mail to Naresvara (Norman D’Costa) that explained her situation, why she was requesting BBT Building Fund money and asking how to proceed to be able/qualified to receive the funds.
Anuttama received no reply to her request e-mail to Naresvara (Norman D’Costa).
On May 7, 2019 Anuttama sent letters to the BBTI office in Alachua, FL and the BBT office in Los Angeles, CA requesting $260,000 of the Building Fund money to be used to develop the NNSKC’s simple living, high thinking project.
The letters sent to the BBTI and the BBT on May 7, 2019 also stated: “I also request a detailed accounting of how BBT Building Fund monies have been spent in the last 20 (twenty) years.”
The BBTI received the letter from Anuttama on May 10, 2019.
The BBT received the request letter from Anuttama on May 14, 2019.
On May 17, 2019 Anuttama received an e-mail (attached) from Ranjit, the secretary for the BBTI acknowledging receipt of the request letter and promising that she would be contacted soon and provided grant applications.
The May 17, 2019 e-mail from Ranjit stated that Anuttama’s project would need GBC (Governing Body Commission of ISKCON) support in order to be approved for a grant.
On June 1, 2019 Anuttama received an e-mail from Radhadyuti stating that she had received the NNSKC grant application and it was being tabled for consideration pending a letter of support from the GBC for the project.
On June 1, 2019 Anuttama replied to Radhadyuti DD’s e-mail asking her for some clarification about the grant approval process, including asking her to identify the acting trustees and whether they required GBC endorsement to approve a grant, in spite of GBC involvement being forbidden by the BBT Trust document.
Anuttama also stated in her June 1, 2019 e-mail to Radhadyuti DD that if she didn’t receive a reply to her questions within 3 days that she’d consider her application to be denied.
By the date of submitting this complaint, Radhadyuti has not replied to Anuttama nor the NNSKC.
On June 8, 2019 Anuttama sent an e-mail to the BBTI informing them of Radhadyuti’s non-response to her request for information, particularly whether GBC support was required to obtain a BBT Building Fund Grant. Anuttama explained in the e-mail about the lack of interest she’d experienced with the GBC when she started the project. She again asked for a timely reply (five days) as to whether GBC support was a condition for a BBT Building Fund grant. The only reply to her question was a brief e-mail note from Ranjit das stating that he would forward Anuttama’s e-mail to Radhadyuti.
On June 13, 2019 Anuttama sent a NOTICE OF NON-RESPONSE to the BBTI and copy e-mails to Naresvara das and Svavasa das (the only two acting trustees she was able to get e-mail addresses for) stating that NNSKC considers that the acting trustees of the BBT have denied the NNSKC’s grant request.
The defendants who are acting as the trustees for the property of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, have the fiduciary duty to give grants from the Building Fund to qualified beneficiaries.
The defendants failed to consider the plaintiff’s application for a BBT Building Fund Grant because the plaintiff is not endorsed by the ISKCON GBC.
The founding document for the BBT states: “This trust shall exist independently of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the Trustees’ functions and duties stated herein shall be separate and not dependent on the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.”
WHEREFORE NNSKC demands judgment for money damages against the defendants, together with such other and further relief as the Court may deem reasonable and just under the circumstances.
COUNT TWO: ACCOUNTING
In the May 7, 2019 letter sent to the BBT and the BBTI, Plaintiff requested details about how BBT Building Fund monies have been spent in the last twenty years.
Plaintiff has received no information regarding the past use of BBT Building Fund money.
As a beneficiary of the BBT Trust, Plaintiff has a right to know how the Trustees are managing the Trust assets.
Information regarding the use of BBT Building Fund money is not available to beneficiaries.
WHEREFORE Plaintiff moves the court to order an accounting of all BBT and BBTI funds for the years 1977 through the present, and that said accounting be made publicly available to all beneficiaries of the Trust.
COUNT THREE: CONVERSION OF BBT PROPERTY
The 1972 Bhaktivedanta Trust document states: “This trust shall be known by the name, “BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST.” Insofar as practicable, the Trustees shall conduct the trust activities in that name.”
Most of the activities involving the assets (copyrights) of the BBT are now being carried out by the BBTI.
The BBTI is not a trust, but rather a non-profit corporation.
The beneficiary, ISKCON, was not informed about the conversion of the BBT assets from the BBT to the BBTI.
The BBTI has not provided the body of beneficiaries with an accounting of how the assets are being managed.
The defendants have converted the assets of the BBT and are using them contrary to the instructions of the valid trust, the BBT.
WHEREFORE Plaintiff moves the court for a declaratory judgment that the assets of the BBT to be removed from the control of the BBTI and managed from the valid BBT as instructed in the trust documents.
COUNT FOUR: CONSPIRACY
In 1997 the BBTI filed a complaint in California court (SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, CENTRAL DISTRICT #170617) against Hans Jurgen Kary seeking a declaratory judgment to remove Kary as the BBT Trustee.
In 1997 Kary filed a cross-complaint against the BBTI for declaratory judgment of validity of trust, affirmation of trustees, request for modification of trust to name new beneficiary and for an accounting and recoupment of profits.
In the written response by plaintiff and cross-defendant BBTI to Hans Kary’s second set of specially prepared interrogatories, the plaintiff claimed that the BBT was an invalid trust because Srila Prabhupada’s books didn’t belong to him:
“BBTI believes that ISKCON, Inc. owned the copyrights outright because the works in question were “works for hire” created by ISKCON, Inc. ISKCON. Inc. supplied the employees who worked on the books with their materials and equipment. ISKCON, Inc. also supplied each of them with room and board and with a stipend for personal or family expenses. Such employees included those who worked in the art department, photography department, Sanskirt editors, Bengali editors, English editors, design and layout specialists, and proof readers, among others, BBTI contends that the California Trust Agreement dated May 29, 1972 did not create a valid trust and that the book publishing and distribution operations of the Movement were in fact never operated according to the provisions of that document. However, in the event the Court finds that that Trust Agreement created a legally valid trust which at the time in question (i.e., 1976) owned some or all of the copyrights registered at that time in the name Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, ISKCON, Inc. was the beneficiary of that trust, and therefore held beneficial title to those copyrights.” Transcript of Case No. BC 170617 WRITTEN OBJECTIONS AND RESPONSES BY PLAINTIFF AND CROSS-DEFENDANT BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST INTERNATIONAL, INC. TO DEFENDANT AND CROSS-COMPLAINANT HANS KARY’S SECOND SET OF SPECIALLY PREPARED INTERROGATORIES, SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
- The BBT Trust Document states: “I have full confidence in the manner in which my Trustees will govern the Trust Fund but, in order to give them as much flexibility as possible in accordance with the law, I set forth the following powers. In the administration of this trust and the Trust Fund, the Trustees shall have all powers and authorities necessary or available under the law to carry out the purposes of this trust, subject to the restriction as heretofore stated that they may not exercise any power or authority which is prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code for tax-exempt organizations.”
- The intention of the BBT Grantor, Srila Prabhupada was for the trustees to be people in whom he had confidence.
- The BBT Grantor, Srila Prabhupada would not have had confidence in someone who claimed that Srila Prabhupada never owned his copyrights.
- The fact that Srila Prabhupada granted his copyrights to the BBT is proof that Srila Prabhupada considered himself to be the owner of the copyrights.
- Defendants the BBT and BBTI have not publicized or generally make it known that the BBT has a Building Fund that is available to beneficiaries.
- Defendant ISKCON Governing Body Commission (ISKCON GBC) have instituted policies such as banning devotees who disagree with their “interpretation” of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, claiming falsehoods such as the Zonal Acarya system, protecting child abusers and covering up heinous behavior of members.
- Defendant ISKCON GBC’s various policies have caused tens-of-thousands of members to dissassociate themselves from the institutional ISKCON members of ISKCON to dissassociate themselves from the institutional ISKCON.
- The ISKCON members who were banned and/or left the institutional ISKCON were unable to access grants from the Building Fund.
- New ISKCON members, who joined ISKCON after the passing of the BBT Grantor, Srila Prabhupada, have not been informed of the existence of the Building Fund of the BBT.
Defendant the ISKCON GBC conspired with defendants Emil Beca, Jay Israel, Norman D’Costa, Michael Auggenthaler and Gregory Stein to gain control of the BBT Building Fund against the instructions and desires of the Grantor, Srila Prabhupada.
The BBTI is a corporation, not a trust.
The name of the BBTI is deliberately misleading because of the word “Trust” in the name.
The Defendants conspired to mislead the beneficiary into thinking that the BBT funds were being managed by legitimate trustees.
WHEREFORE the Plaintiff moves the court for a declaratory order to remove the defendants Emil Beca, Jay Israel, Norman D’Costa, Michael Auggenthaler and Gregory Stein and DOES one through 99 from positions of trustees of the BBT. Plaintiff moves the court to appoint trustees who are willing to follow the wishes of the Grantor, Srila Prabhupada and are willing to vow the Oath of Allegiance that was approved by Srila Prabhupada. Plaintiff moves the court to order the disbandment of the ISKCON GBC and a replacement GBC be created by following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, especially his instructions in his written Direction of Management. Plaintiff additionally demands judgment for money damages against the defendants, together with such other and further relief as the Court may deem reasonable and just under the circumstances.
COUNT FIVE: CONSTRUCTIVE FRAUD
In the 1997 complaint against Kary (Case No. BC 170617, SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES), the plaintiff, BBTI hired a group of attorneys from the law firm of Coudert Brothers.
The BBTI spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in its efforts to remove Kary as trustee through the court case (Case No. BC 170617, SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES).
Kary’s defense fund was less than $30,000, money raised through donations.
The BBTI had an unfair advantage over Kary and forced him to make an unfair settlement because he could not continue litigation due to lack of funds.
Any settlement signed by Kary in Case No. BC 170617, SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES is invalid due to duress.
The defendants purposely named the corporation BBTI with a very similar name to the valid trust, the BBT.
Most beneficiaries of the BBT are unaware that the BBTI is a corporation, not the valid trust created to protect Srila Prabhupada’s copyrights.
Through unwanted and unwarranted posthumous editing of Srila Prabhupada’s books that goes against all Vaisnava tradition and against all publishing standards, The Defendants who manage the BBTI have shown that it has no responsibility to protect the sanctity of Srila Prabhupada’s copyrights by desecrating them.
The Defendants have demonstrated malicious disregard for the copyrights while ignoring the rights of the beneficiaries.
The defendants have defrauded the beneficiary of its rightful benefits.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff moves the court for a declaratory order voiding any settlement obtained from Case No. BC 170617, SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES and restoring the BBT to its position before the settlement. Additionally, Plaintiff demands judgment for money damages against the defendants, together with such other and further relief as the Court may deem reasonable and just under the circumstances.
COUNT SIX: FRAUD
On the BBT website (bbt.org), under the heading “about” is the following paragraph:
“The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) is the world’s largest publisher of ancient and classic Vaishnava texts, epics, and contemporary works on the philosophy, theology, and culture of bhakti-yoga and personalist theology. It was founded in 1972 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The BBT especially emphasizes the works of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.”
- The above statement is false: the property of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust is stated in the founding document: “The properties which shall constitute the Trust Fund include all books and manuscripts and other documents written by me or translated by me, including the following hereinafter listed, and all those written by me in the future, including all copyrights and publication rights incidental thereto:”
- There are no provisions in the BBT Trust Document to allow the BBT Trustees to use BBT funds to publish works of other authors.
- The natural persons managing the BBTI are managing the BBT property as though it is a business, not a trust managed for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
- The defendants are aware of the instructions of the Grantor and are deliberately managing the assets of the trust against the instructions of the grantor.
- The defendants who are managing the BBT and BBTI do not let beneficiaries know about the existence of a Building Fund or how to apply for a grant.
- There is no accounting available publicly for beneficiaries to monitor the Building Fund.
- The defendants who are managing the BBT and BBTI have defrauded the beneficiary ISKCON.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment for money damages against the defendants, together with such other and further relief as the Court may deem reasonable and just under the circumstances.