Karnataka High Court pulls up state government

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Thursday pulled up the ‘Cauvery Calling’ campaign launched by Isha Foundation headed by spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev who had collected a whopping Rs82.5 crore in the name of the river project.

Taking the government to task, the court wanted to know who will be leading the campaign in Karnataka – Isha Foundation, or the Karnataka government.

Karnataka HC Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka asked the counsel representing the state government to explain who was implementing the agroforestry campaign. “The state (government) has said that after receiving a project report from Isha Foundation, it had forwarded it to the state forest department following which the project was allowed. The state government has to explain if it is driving the project and how it has allowed Isha Foundation to claim it is their project,” the CJ said.

The state government “should not be influenced by the fact that influential people are involved in this project,” he added, and asked if the state government will place on record Isha Foundation will not collect funds in the name of ‘Ca­u­very Calling’ or whether the state government will issue a notification stating the same.

The court was referring to an affidavit filed by the Karnataka government stating a detailed project report for ‘Cauvery Calling’ prepared by the Isha Foundation was sent to the Karnataka Forest Dept in April 2019. The government promised that funds will be allocated in the budget and the project will be implemented as part of a government scheme of the forest dept – Krishi Aranya Protsaha Yojane (KAPY). The court gave the Karnataka government and the Isha Foundation three weeks to submit objections and posted the next hearing for July 3. The case pertains to a public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the Karnataka government for supporting ‘Cauvery Calling’. The PIL was filed by advocate AV Amarnath.

Jaggi Vasudev had flagged off ‘Cauvery Calling’, a nationwide agroforestry project focused on the Cauvery river in September 2019. Since then, the foundation, collected nearly Rs82.5 crore — a figure mentioned in one of the affidavits submitted to the court.

The petitioner wants this to be deposited with the Karnataka government.

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