Advocate Rishabh Gandhi, on behalf of petitioner Yogesh Thakkar, pointed out serious deficiencies in the probe conducted by the investigating officers of Pune Police into the allegedly forged will of Osho. Published in the Hindustan Times on April 19, 2019.
A Pune court on Thursday heard arguments alleging that the police conducted shoddy investigations into the allegedly forged will of the spiritual leader Osho and closed the probe on that basis.
Advocate Rishabh Gandhi, on behalf of petitioner Yogesh Thakkar, pointed out serious deficiencies in the probe conducted by the investigating officers of Pune Police into the allegedly forged will of Osho. Gandhi was arguing in the court of judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) PM Nirale. The next hearing in this case has been scheduled for May 2.
The case relates to the allegedly forged will of Osho that surfaced in a European Trade Mark Registration office, 23 years after Osho’s death. The will, which was later withdrawn from the European proceedings, surfaced during a legal battle between Osho International Foundation (OIF) and a rival group of Osho’s followers.
Gandhi argued that given the vast following and valuable assets that Osho had created, his will should have been investigated thoroughly by the Pune Police. He said he did not wish to make any adverse comments on the investigating officials; however, the probe was conducted shoddily and this was commented upon by the Bombay High Court too.
Pointing out that the will dated 16 June 1989 was signed on a stamp paper of Rs 10 purchased by a law firm in Mumbai, Gandhi said, the police did not question the law firm or even bother to find out who had purchased the stamp paper.
He said while efforts were made by the Pune Police to issue Letters Rogatory to the Spanish Government to secure the original copy or a true copy of Osho’s will, these efforts were half-hearted and did not bear fruit.
Gandhi said that the investigating officer did not take cognisance of the suspicious circumstances of Osho’s death on January 19, 1990 in Pune as stated by Dr. Gokul Gokani in an affidavit. It was Dr. Gokani who had issued Osho’s death certificate, and in an affidavit 25 years later revealed the questionable circumstances in which it was done.
The advocate argued that the police accepted the version of the prime accused in the forged will case – Michael O’Byrne (Swami Anand Jayesh), president of Osho Foundation International [sic], Zurich; John Andrews (Swami Amrito), Mukesh Sarda and others that Osho’s will had been torn to shreds by his close disciple Ma Prem Nirvano (Christine Woolf Smith) “who they said, was suffering from a bipolar disease.”
“How could the police accept this version from the accused without conducting any probe of their own?” Gandhi asked. The police did not conduct any search or seizures in the places of the accused, although all the addresses were provided by the petitioner, he said.
Gandhi also pointed out that while at least three handwriting experts, including one from Italy, had stated unanimously that the will was a forged document, the official handwriting expert of the Pune Police gave an inconclusive report after two years and three months. The police expert said “he was unable to express an opinion as the original will is not available.”
“Why did this expert take two years and three months to submit an inconclusive report?” asked Gandhi.
The petitioner Thakkar said that while the police had filed a ‘C-summary’ report stating that the probe was inconclusive, he has filed a protest petition seeking further investigations into the matter.
On January 18, a Supreme Court (SC) bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah had heard a special leave petition by Thakkar challenging the ‘C-summary’ report of Pune Police. The court, in its order, said that the petitioner was free to approach the JMFC court with his objections. Declining to transfer the investigations to the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), the court said, “The issue is kept open to be raised in an appropriate forum, if it becomes necessary, in future.”
While Thakkar had argued the case personally, senior advocates such as Mahesh Jethmalani, Kapil Sibal and others had appeared for the respondents and intervenors.