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“It Is So Ordered” – NY Supreme Court Judge Ruled in Favor of ISKCON Ending an Almost 20-Year Ordeal

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(iskconnews.org) – ISKCON News | “It Is So Ordered” – NY Supreme Court Judge Ruled in Favor of ISKCON Ending an Almost 20-Year Ordeal

An important judgment was announced by the New York State Court on October 25, 2023.

Below is a previous ISKCON News press release from Oct. 16, 2017, which summarizes the case:

“A North American legal case that has lasted almost two decades took a decisive turn in favor of ISKCON this past week. This long-running case, known in ISKCON as the Long Island Court Case, began in 2004 in Freeport, New York. At that time, a group of “ritviks” opposed to the ISKCON Governing Body Commission (GBC) from outside Long Island, through deception and subterfuge, took control of the Long Island ISKCON Temple and the Board of Trustees.

(Ritviks are persons who oppose the continuation of the ISKCON Gaudiya Vaishnava parampara as desired by ISKCON’s Founder-Acarya, Srila Prabhupada; and instead, believe that Prabhupada wanted to directly initiate disciples even after his passing from this world in 1977.)

After attempts by the GBC to mediate the dispute and remove the ritviks from possession of the Long Island temple failed, a lawsuit was filed in the Nassau County Supreme Court. In October 2017, the court decided in favor of ISKCON. However, the defendants appealed on a technicality, and in January 2021, the appeals court ordered a new trial.

The court victory this week resulted from the ritvik’s submission of a late motion to present a lengthy list of defenses and counterclaims at the new trial. ISKCON vigorously opposed this motion, and in response, the trial judge, Justice Marber, “DENIED (the motion) in its entirety.” The Judge ruled that the ritvik request failed to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for further delay or a meritorious defense and would be unfair to ISKCON.

“We are optimistic that ISKCON will prevail again in the upcoming trial,” said John G. Stepanovich, lead ISKCON attorney. “We expect a new trial date in the first quarter of 2022. This will be a lengthy trial that should last well over one week, with witnesses called from around the world, and thousands of pages of supporting documents will be submitted” [End of 2017 press release].

The much-anticipated trial took place in Nassau County Court between June 6, 2023, and June 21, 2023. The almost two-decade ordeal involved hundreds and thousands of manhours of deliberations, meetings, strategies, and preparations of statements by ISKCON GBC members (current and emeritus), its devotees, and an expert legal team that has persevered through these years.

Romapada Swami, one of the plaintiffs in the case and the leader who spearheaded this case over the twenty-year period, explained what was at stake for this case and why it has such significance for ISKCON.

“Firstly, the defendants literally STOLE the original corporation which Srila Prabhupada formed in 1966. Secondly, they officially CHANGED Srila Prabhupada’s original articles of incorporation in a legal filing with the State of New York. Thirdly, they filed a counterclaim explicitly aimed at taking over the BBT.”

The case is a historic win for ISKCON in that it safeguards the original corporation that Srila Prabhupada formed in 1966.

The NA Regional Governing Body stated, “Our International Society owes Romapada Swami our deepest gratitude and respect for his extraordinary leadership and determination to defend Srila Prabhupada and protect his ISKCON movement.

Romapada Swami, appointed to this effort by the GBC, with Kuladri Das as his constant and capable companion during the entire twenty-year adventure, directed this momentous case and arranged its financing, concluding with this recent victory. An appeal of this decision is anticipated, with further battles ahead, but this is a giant step forward.

Special mention must be made of ISKCON’s trial attorney John Stepanovich. Assisted by additional attorneys, he dedicated his heart and soul to the trial aspect of this case for ten years, totally determined to achieve victory for ISKCON; his capability speaks for itself. We are all deeply indebted to him!”

Photo courtesy EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA.

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