PART II Response to Sanaka Rsi’s Letter Regarding Laksmimoni Dasi’s Case


Dear Sanaka Rsi,

 

Jaya Prabhupada! Thank you for your letter. I will address your points. First, I will frame my critique with a general remark. Universal norms of justice require three components to fairly adjudicate an accusation: an advocate for the prosecution; an advocate for the defense; an impartial judge.
Clearly you have taken the role of the advocate for the prosecution, and your entire letter has the typical form and tone of a prosecutorial interrogation. It is necessary that the abused have a strong advocate, and in that sense you are doing an important service. However to ensure fair process, a judge must be both impartial and professionally trained in jurisprudence. Since you are neither, you are clearly not the judge in this matter, nor am I.
I will now address your points. Your words immediately follow the numbers.
1. “I presented it as a fact that you have indeed been interfering with Laxmimoni’s case and you have confirmed this, albeit with different wording: “I simply called for fair judicial process…”
You accuse me of “interfering.” “To interfere” primarily indicates three actions, which I will analyze in order:
a. Interfere: take part or intervene in an activity without… necessity.
If I am right, and the CPO did not provide fair process, than in fact it was necessary for me to speak out. If the CPO did follow fair process, as you claim, then my intervention was not necessary. Since you are neither neutral in this case, nor professionally trained in jurisprudence, you cannot be the judge of the CPO’s procedure, nor the final judge of whether my intervention was necessary or not.
b. Interfere: prevent (a process or activity) from continuing or being carried out properly.
Again, if an impartial, trained judge rules that the CPO did not follow fair process, then I am actually enabling a process to be carried out properly, the opposite of interference. It depends on the quality of the CPO process and that has not yet been ajudicated by an impartial, trained judge.
c. Interfere: handle or adjust something without permission.
There is no ISKCON or CPO law that requires me to get formal permission to give my view.
 
Further, in your statement above, you equate a call for “fair judicial process” with “interference.” The difference will be obvious to any impartial reader.
 
2. “I assumed that you would want to portray your interference under the guise of justice and fair process, and you have also confirmed this.
Interestingly, even a prosecuting attorney would be forbidden to use such language as you employ in a court of law. A ‘guise’ is something that conceals the true nature of something. Here you claim extraordinary powers to discern the hidden motives of other people. You provide no evidence of my hidden motives, such as a letter I wrote, or a recording of a statement I made. With no objective evidence, your statement amounts to nothing more than name-calling, hardly the basis for a rational system of justice.  
 
3. “This leaves me wondering how many more senior leaders are campaigning to protect Laxmimoni under the pretext of ensuring “fair judicial process…”
Pretext? See my comments on #2. More gratuitous accusations.
4. “You state that ‘My only concern was fair process…’. While I can’t read your heart, it is evident that the only party that stands to gain from your interference in this CPO adjudication is Laxmimoni and certainly not her victims…”
Incorrect. Prabhupada repeatedly called for constitutional governance within ISKCON. A proper system of justice is a cornerstone of a constitutional society. Indeed, a proper justice system is a key difference between civilized society and uncivilized society. Thus ISKCON stands to gain enormously by paying more attention to fair judicial procedure.
You ignore my real purpose, which I clearly stated, and instead argue against your own twisted caricature of my position. You refuted your own imagination, not my real position.
And if you can’t read my heart, why do you so often claim to read it with words like “guise” and “pretext.”
5. “As far as I am aware, this is the first time you have ever raised concerns about CPO procedural fairness.
Correct. Until now, I had full faith in the CPO and assumed that they were doing their job properly. Thus, I saw no need to concern myself with their decisions. 
6. “I will be very grateful if you could elaborate on what exactly are these egregious procedural shortcomings you are aware of/concerned about, that suddenly prompted you to set aside your precious time to trouble yourself with CPO matters.
Since you are acting as an advocate for the prosecution, it is not to you that evidence of bad process is presented. It is presented to an impartial, professionally trained judge. I will say this: I have come to believe that the basic flaw of the CPO was to combine the two roles of advocate for the abused and judge of the accused. In respected systems of justice, an advocate for one side in a dispute cannot also be the judge. Again, an impartial, trained judge must assess the details of CPO process
 
7. “Would you kindly share with us exactly when you became concerned about the CPO’s procedural fairness? Was it from the beginning of the case, or did you decide to step in after the verdict was released? You see, if you got involved only after the guilty verdict, this would lend credibility to the concern that you have indeed stepped in with the intention to help Laxmimoni, on account of your disapproval of the verdict.
Here you make two false assumptions. a) You assume that there are no reasons that might lead me to get involved when I did, but that lend no credibility whatsoever to your assumption of my motives. b) You assume that I got involved when I learned of the guilty verdict. 
Here is what actually happened. I did not get involved at the beginning of the case for the reason stated above: I had full faith in the competence and fairness of the CPO. And when I heard that LM had been found guilty, I still did not get involved, because I still assumed the CPO had reached a fair decision. In fact, I became involved only when I read serious claims of faulty process. I cannot finally judge the claims, but they were credible enough to at least demonstrate the need for judicial review.
 
8. “I’d like to ask you a hypothetical question: “Do you think you would have also gotten involved to raise concerns about the judicial fairness of CPO proceedings if they had exonerated Laxmimoni”?
If I had received credible claims that LM had been unfairly exonerated, yes I would absolutely have protested.
9.  “It is also important to remember that Laxmimoni served as a CPO judge for many years. During this time, she adjudicated a number of important cases, Dhanurdara Swami being one of them. If fairness is truly important, I trust you would agree that she ought to be tried with the same rules she applied to others. Where is the justice in campaigning to change the rules, now that it’s her turn to occupy the stand of the accused, so that she can benefit from a more ‘fair trial’???
There are at least two problems in your question:
a) You equate “rules” with following rules. It is possible (I have no idea if this is true) that as a judge, LM followed certain CPO rules, and those same rules were not followed in judging her. 
b) If LM followed what are now seen as imperfect rules in her capacity as a CPO judge, it does not follow that the same imperfect rules should be used in judging her. I am not aware of any serious justice system in the world that would knowingly try a judge by rules that have been found to be wrong, because during his or her tenure, the judge used those rules. Such an idea may satisfy a need for vengeance, but it does not correspond to any respected system of justice.
10. “I appreciate Brahmatirtha Prabhu’s dedication to make you look good, but I encourage him to acquaint himself with the tragic history of the Latin American Gurukulas. The students in the Gurukulas in Mexico, Peru and Brazil were subjected to savage brutalities!
Since you are in favor of acquainting oneself with history, please note that I was not the GBC of the Gurukulas in Mexico and Peru. In Brazil, the one serious case of abuse that I know of from that period came to light after I left Brazil. We did many things right, and inevitably there were mistakes. But I was not aware of ‘savage brutalities’ during my time there.
 
Prabhupada said that ISKCON should be a constitutional society, and that religion without philosophy
, i.e. reason and logic, is sentimentalism or fanaticism. In that spirit, I have tried to address your points.

 

Your well-wisher,
Hridayananda das Goswami