Osho's fake will
|Christianity was founded by Paul, not by Christ, and Paul was a totally different kind of person. Buddhism was founded not by Buddha but by the brahmins who became his disciples. So was the case with Jainism: it was not founded by Mahavira but the brahmins, the scholars, who became his disciples. They are always the people who compile and make the discipline and laws and everything. They are proficient at it, and once the master is gone nobody can prevent them. And they are very very articulate so you cannot argue with them. |
For 23 years after Osho left his body on Jan 19 1990, not a word or hint of "Osho's will" was known anywhere in the sannyas community at-large. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, it appeared in a European court case, in a dispute over the European Community trademark "Osho". The circumstances were as follows:
In 1991, Osho International Foundation (OIF) in Zürich started registering Osho's name as a trademark in various European countries, ostensibly to protect the name Osho against "abuse", ie supposedly unauthorized use by non-sannyasins and "enemies" of Osho.
As the program developed, it became apparent that enforcement of this trademark -- in parallel with enforcement of copyright, see also Trademarks and copyright -- was as much if not more focused on friends and lovers of Osho, as a way of maintaining an ever-narrower vision of Osho's legacy.
It was inevitable that some pushback would happen, and so it came to pass that a group of American sannyasins made the long journey through the American Trademark court system to challenge this trademark, and in 2009, they succeeded in getting it canceled. Inspired by their success, Osho Lotus Commune e.V., operator of Osho Uta meditation centre in Köln, filed an application the next year to cancel the trademark in Europe.
On June 8 2013, OIF's lawyers submitted some documents as part of that court case, including a sworn affidavit by Philip Toelkes (Sw Prem Niren) of the OIF legal team, and a "last will and testament" supposedly signed by Osho on October 15th, 1989. It cannot be over-emphasized that the existence of such a document had not been known or even dreamed of in the previous 23 years since Osho left his body.
How credible can this will be? Let's see ....
Niren's statement consisted of many numbered paragraphs and one "exhibit", the purported will. It was dated June 4 2013 and can be viewed in toto among Osho Tapoban's pages on Issuu, the document storage site. Relevant here are items 1, 2, 24, 25 and 26, plus the image of the will.
Community Trade Mark Registration
No 1224831 OSHO in Classes 41 & 42
In the name of Osho International
Foundation ("OIF") and
Application for Invalidity No 5063
thereto by Osho Lotus Commune e.V.
Second Supplemental Witness Statement
I, Philip Toelkes, also known as Prem Niren, hereby declare that:
1. All the statements made herein are true and from my personal knowledge and recollection. Where I have made statements from another source, I have identified that source and believe the facts to be true. I am competent to make this witness statement. My address is [provided but not needed in the wiki context].
2. Scope of statement. This statement responds to questions raised by Lotus in its brief of January 4, 2013, and mischaracterizations of the documents of rights transfer and US copyright, contract and intellectual property. It will not restate the facts set forth in my earlier statements.
[ .... ]
24. Osho's Last Will & Testament negates Lotus' contentions re invalidity of documents of transfer. Though Lotus' claims against the validity of the documents of transfer are shown to be against the applicable law and without foundation, the vulnerability of any of the documents of transfer would not defeat Osho's clearly stated intention to transfer any and all property interests to the persons and entities he entrusted with his work. Osho left a Last Will & Testament, which was created to address the possibility that any of the earlier transfers would not be effective to divest him of all property interests, as had been his stated intention.
25. A true copy of Osho's Last Will & Testament, ("Osho's Will") executed on October 15, 1989, shortly before his death, a copy of which is provided herewith as Exhibit 4, clearly stated again his intention to transfer any and all property rights or interests he had to OIF. His will devises "all right, title and interest on any nature in any and all property including but not limited to all ownership, publishing or related rights, to all my work...in any form..." The breadth of the bequest is clearly sufficient to transfer any and all rights to use of his name and likeness, as well as all of his work.
26. Authentication of Will. I drafted the Will, and witnessed Osho's execution thereof, in the presence of the signing witnesses, as can be seen on the face of the document. The copy provided is a true and correct copy of the Will, and the signatures thereon were made by the persons so identified and were made on the date indicated on the document. Osho asked questions about the legal effect of the document prior to his execution thereof, and was unquestionably mentally alert and in full possession of his faculties at the time of execution.
Thus spake Niren.
the graphologists' reports
As can be imagined, this purported Last Will caused a lot of excitement, consternation and just plain WTF. Suspicions were aroused among many sannyasins, for the same reasons that Osho's fake adoption raised suspicions: that this is convenient, and where has this doc been all these years? Among certain sannyasins, the Hunt was on, looking deeply into any and all of Osho's old signatures.
Possibly the first to notice that Osho's signature in this will was VERY similar to that in a letter were Sw Chidananda and Ma Yoga Videh. That letter he wrote on 5 February 1976. As it happens, they found it not squirreled away in a drawer in Pune, but displayed on the back cover of one of Osho's books, Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 5.
At any rate, they were the first to commission a professional graphologist, an expert in handwriting analysis, to examine the the two signatures. That graphologist, Nicole Ciccola of Bologna Italy, submitted her report on Oct 13 2013. It can be viewed at another of Tapoban's pages stored at Issuu.
In her report, Ciccola cites a graphological text, L'indagine grafica, by Orlando Sivieri, pub 1967 by Cedam, Padova: "The perfect matching of words or groups of letters is undoubtedly the most incontrovertible evidence of a fake, since nobody, as they write, can repeat the movements that produce his/her handwriting in such an an absolutely identical way, in the same order, with the same sequence, the same rhythm ... Even more so for signatures. Anyone can try to write his/her own signature as many times as s/he wants; s/he will never find any which, placed on top of another one, perfectly repeats the lines in the sign, spacing, etc".
Two more graphologists from India were also engaged and submitted reports. The first, NR Parik of Aurangabad, has enlarged images of both signatures with a third image showing them superimposed. A summary page from his report, filed on Nov 6 2013, is seen at right. The full report is available also in Tapoban's pages.
The third graphologist's report, filed Nov 9 2013, is from Gaurav Kaushik of JK Consultancy in New Delhi. A pdf version can be found online among Osho Uta's records of the event. Kaushik also testifies that the two signature images when superimposed are seen to be identical, and adds that the Will signature "appears to be drawn slow in execution, is tremerous [sic] in nature and has a defective line quality. Whereas [the 1976 signature] is freely written, shows normal consistency and shows genuine line quality".
The path through the maze of this story is long and complicated. Its complexity derives mainly from the fact that it is unfolding in the world of law and courts, where language can be arcane and, although facts are important, processes, protocols and procedures are more so. To the uninitiated, it all can be fairly inscrutable, almost as opaque as former US President Bill Clinton's famous "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is". (Clinton was also a lawyer.) It brings to mind Osho's naturalistic pronunciation of the word as "law"-"yer", which comes out as "liar". Please bear with us as we attempt to navigate.
European trademark case
The court case in which the alleged will was introduced was the European Trademark case, which ran from 2010 to 2014. The plaintiff in this case was Osho Lotus Commune e.V., the parent organization of Osho Uta Institute in Köln, the biggest Osho Meditation Center in Europe. Lotus was contesting the trademark registered by Osho International Foundation, Switzerland (OIF) which claimed to own and control the right to use Osho's name in the whole of the EU. The effort was inspired by the success of American sannyasins in 2008-2009 in cancelling the trademark OIF had registered in the US.
The principal actor in this challenge of OIF's trademarking of Osho in Europe was Ramateertha, the center leader of Uta. A relatively full account of the lead-up to the court case, all the submissions Lotus made and the court's final decision are available via Uta's site regarding the case. A remarkable feature of the case was the submission from over thirty long-time, "prominent" sannyasins -- "prominent" in that they were officials of various Osho centers or Institutes or Osho therapists or group-leaders -- of affidavits attesting to the formerly free, easy and unconditional use of Osho's name, the antithesis of trademarking, a use centered on respect and love as opposed to branding and business. More on this and other matters connected with this case can be found at EU TM case, 2010-2014.
The court hearing this case was in Alicante, in Spain, at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). The proceedings were in English. Their decision, reached in 2014, was in favour of OIF. Lotus' final submission -- in Sep 2013, two months before any graphologist had reported, in fact before the earlier matching signature had been found -- mentioned the alleged will, but only as something to be ignored. So the court ignored it, and thus its potentially explosive use in invalidating the credibility of OIF's testimony and submissions was also ignored.
Lotus appealed this decision, and the appeal was heard in 2015, with the result that the 2014 decision was upheld. That decision was written up in Osho Times, datelined Alicante, Spain. The first paragraph:
- On appeal from an earlier decision, the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) once again confirmed on 23rd September 2015 the validity of the European Trademark “OSHO,” as well as ownership of the trademark by Osho International Foundation, Switzerland. (“OIF”) [Appeal No. R199712014-4 OSHO]
The article went on to attack Ramateertha at length, with plenty of ad-hominems, and to explain at length all the reasons the court's decision was right and just. Ramateertha's appeal of that decision was settled in 2017, again in OIF's favour. The story, again as per Osho Times:
- Europe’s Highest Court Confirms OSHO Trademark/Lovemark! (underlining per the wiki, not Osho Times) The European General Court – a branch of Court of Justice of the European Union – Makes Final Decision on OSHO Trademark and confirms ownership by Osho International Foundation
Again in this story, repeated in Indian dailies, there was no mention of the alleged will. It is not known whether the alleged will was mentioned in either of these appeals.
the saga continues
But the result in that one case is rather a minor branch-line of the main story on this page, which is, what about this will? Did Osho really create this will, or is it a fake? And if a fake, what has happened to those responsible? What has happened to the Justice process which is supposed to "correct" "injustices"? This last question has no simple answer but we will follow the trail as best we can.
If a crime has been committed, or is suspected to have been committed, there are well-established legal processes which are supposed to look into and/or redress such matters, though they vary considerably from one regime to another. Basically, one branch of the government (police or other investigators at the appropriate level) is supposed to investigate such matters, gather information and bring its findings to another, related branch which will formally and ritualistically point the society's collective finger at those alleged to have done the deed.
Then comes the drama of a "trial", wherein the accused is/are "prosecuted" by the state, acting through its team of lawyers, and defended by their own lawyers, arguing, presenting evidence, questioning witnesses, etc, etc. The drama unfolds in highly ritualized ways in a special location (a "court", which might even be thought of as a temple of law) with a representative of yet another closely related branch of government, a judge (a priest in the temple analogy) presiding over the proceedings (conducting the ceremony) and coming to a decision, following rules that are partly written down (scripture) and partly not (divine guidance). This is "Justice", and it is the best that can happen in most civil societies in terms of fairness to all concerned, and in some places, in some situations, may actually approach such fairness. But it can never, by its nature, be perfect.
First, the FIR
What happens if the police are not motivated to start the process by investigating what might seem to be, by all appearances as far as the public are concerned, a crime? In most places, the answer is, "Not much", but there may be ways to get the police motivated. In India, private citizens can lodge complaints, allegations of wrongdoing, directly with the police, to compel them to act, to investigate an alleged crime.
Since the alleged will was one way or another created in India, that is where the story would have to continue, if at all. And so it came to pass that an Indian sannyasin, Sw Premgeet, aka Yogesh Thakkar, registered an FIR (First Information Report) with the Pune police, requiring them to start looking into this case. This was in Nov of 2013. It was ten pages, the beginning of which can be seen at right. The beginning text identifies the complainant and specifies the charges which are being considered, ie under which Act(s) in the Indian Penal Code.
The full FIR can be viewed at Osho Uta's site. Premgeet has accused not only the three whose names are on the alleged will (Niren, Jayesh and Amrito) but three more members of the OIF board, Yogendra, Mukesh and Pramod.
So what happened with that?
Bombay High Court, 2016
Next up in the saga comes this court, located in Mumbai. This is not the court one might expect to come next, where the accused go to their trial. No, this is the court where Premgeet, frustrated with the perceived inaction of the Pune police, initiated a petition to get the investigation transferred away from them to the investigative arm(s) of the federal / Central government in New Delhi. He was already a frequent flier with this court, having tried for years to get certain perceived financial irregularities at Osho Resort investigated by the Charity Commissioner, without apparent progress.
In Aug 2016, the court began to entertain his petition about the Will. Full transcripts are not available but much detail can be gleaned from the HC website regarding the concerned parties, the lawyers, the judges, and their rulings or pronouncements for each session, of which there were no less than 29. As this information is not simple to access and has so much verbiage, the wiki has a separate page with highlights and detailed instructions on how to access the full reports, such as they are, at Bombay High Court case, 2016. A brief summary:
Sessions ran from Aug 3 2016 to Oct 11 2018. Nothing much happened in many of them, with one party or another requesting the court to "stand over" for a week or a month or two. The judges did admonish the Pune police a couple of times but in the end they decided that they were doing an adequate job and there was no compelling reason to transfer the investigation to federal investigators.
About the three professional graphologists' reports that deemed the will unequivocally a forgery, the court ruled that, as they had been privately commissioned, their testimony would need to be corroborated by a government graphologist. The first one engaged by the Pune police declared that, as all the docs involved in the case were photocopies, one could not form an opinion. A forensic lab was engaged but no discussion of its report entered the court record, at least the stripped-down version on the net.
the next steps
As far as the Bombay High Court was concerned, the case was finished, dismissed, another dead end. But the story does continue. Videh and Chidananda commissioned (yet) another forensic report on the alleged will, with one of the best forensic laboratories in India, Truth Labs. Their report, dated Dec 11 2018 and signed by six prominent experts, concluded, like its predecessors, that the signature of Osho in the will was unquestionably a forgery. So, back into the legal system ...
On Jan 18 2019, they went to the Indian Supreme Court in New Delhi to appeal the Bombay HC decision. The SC judge issued an Order on the same day stating that they had to go back to the Pune Magistrate Court and file a Protest Petition. They did this on Apr 10 2019. There were numerous hearings and the final Order was given on Jul 24 2019, dismissing the case. The judge basically accepted the final Report of the Pune Police, with no conclusion as to whether the will was forged or not. Premgeet appealed this decision in the Revision Court, the Pune Magistrate Court's appeal body, but the case was again dismissed.
Videh and Chidananda instead went back to the Bombay High Court to appeal, filing a Writ Petition in Sept 2019, again asking the HC to transfer the investigation of the forgery from the Pune police to the CBI (the Central Bureau of Investigation). The case had three hearings but after that got put on hold because of the Covid pandemic. See Bombay High Court case, 2019 for the details on that.
Meanwhile, they learned that OIF (Zürich) had applied for a Trade Mark of "OSHO" in India through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on Jan 30 2018. They filed a petition to intervene in this case on Nov 24 2020, asking for any decision in the Trade Mark case to wait until there is a final decision in the on-going criminal case regarding Osho's alleged will in the Bombay HC (WP4648/2019). See Indian TM case 2018 for the details of this proceeding, still pending as of Sep 2021.