Mr. Pranab Bhattacharjee
Director, Physical Education
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Pondicherry 605 002
Reference : Your three letters to Mr. Manoj Das Gupta
dtd. 25.07.2009 ; 05.08.2009 ; 21.08.2009
Sub : Offending Book authored by Peter Heehs
Accomplice-conduct of Manoj Das Gupta (MDG)
Respected and Beloved Pranabda,
It is not surprising that MDG had asked you to consult lawyer on the legally valid issue
you raised on your letter dtd. 25.07.09 - while he is a trustee for about three decades and
In-Charge of Copyright department of the Ashram, appointed by the Mother last week of
July 1972, after Her signed instruction dtd. 22.07.72 came to naught qua consistent
wrong-doing by AIP & SABDA - since MDG is of hands-in-gloves with Peter Heehs ( PH) &
his friends. It is now apparent on admitted records, the issue raised by you, that PH has
used all many unpublished materials in his alleged book, for which no permission had
ever been granted even. MDG has been persistently flouting your letters and acting
materially against the honour and respect of Master and interest of the Institution.
Conclusively the alleged book is an offending book, as legally declared by the State with
authority. The warrant of arrest issued against PH has been stayed by an ad-interim
Order, but not the Declaration by the State. So the book stands an offending book.
But the management of the Ashram Trust has not been taking any steps against PH and
the book, the publisher and the seller. And further, MDG has not yet asked PH about his
authority to give all publishing rights to another for money, and for publishing
unauthorised materials. Rather, by his conduct and text of reply-response and silence,
MGD proved himself beyond doubt - to be committed to defend PH and his cause.
It is now on record that MDG has been telling a lie all along on all issues relating to this.
He send his emissary to tell you that permission was given to PH in 2004 to publish the
book with all the materials which have been published while PH regretted to MGD in a
letter in September 2008 for publishing all such unpublished , unauthenticated materials.
A bunch of 20 notebooks were kept in the room of Sri Aurobindo and marked by Him as
"Not to be published", while many portions of those materials have been published.
It is imperative that MGD be asked by you to produce a copy of the said Letter of
permission dtd. 2004 given to PH, a copy of resolution of BoT before granting such
permission ; terms and condition of publication rights qua the alleged book ; Royalty ;
copy of the said regret Letter dtd. September 2008 issued by PH. There cannot be any
secrecy or privacy about all such documents. This is a public charitable trust (PCT),
enjoying exemptions qua public exchequer, so public character is always there admittedly
Now the question is, if MDG maintains his ‘dignified silence’ and does not reply and
response to your letters, remains protective to the causes of PH & Others - what steps you
would be taken against MDG to save the Institution and honour of the Master. There can’t
be anything personal, it is for Sri Aurobindo. More that one year has been lapsed in
writing letters & waiting for replies since the alleged book was published and more than
90 days have been passed since the book has been declared as an "offending book".
with most sincere regards
advocate, supreme court
Legal opinion on violation of copyright
From a legal point of view Peter Heehs may be considered to be in violation of Ashram
Trust’s copyright permission on five counts.
Here are the facts of the case with my comments after each.
Fact 1: Ashram Trust has granted Heehs permission to use only the published works of
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for his book.
This permission is a legal contract between SAAT and Heehs. If this is violated, then the
Ashram has full right to legal recourse which includes but is not limited to a) withdrawal
of permission, b) immediate halt of sales of book, c) financial compensation for damages,
d) criminal charges.
Fact 2: In his book Heehs has used several passages from unpublished manuscripts of
Sri Aurobindo. (e.g. quotation from unpublished first draft of "Savitri" on page 300)
This is a clear violation of the contract, and is by itself enough to initiate proceedings and
withdrawal of permission.
Fact 3: In his book Heehs has used text from unpublished articles and diaries of
disciples (including A B Purani, Nirodbaran, Barindra, etc), and various related people
(including Mira Ismalun, G H Gokhale, etc).
In this he has violated his contract with the Ashram Trust because Columbia University
Press (CUP) guidelines on copyright clearly state that:
"Unpublished material (including letters, diaries, and other manuscripts) does not fall
under copyright laws but is protected legally as personal property. Permission for any
quotation, of whatever length, must be obtained from the owner of the literary
property—the writer or the legal heir—who may not necessarily be the possessor of
the physical manuscript. Permission may be required from that owner, as well as from
the writer or his legal heir."
This applies to all the unpublished texts used in the book in which matter has been taken
from the Archives records and which are a property of the Ashram Trust. In particular,
the unpublished diary notes of Purani were personal property of his legal heir who
subsequently bequeathed them to the Ashram Trust which is the present property holder
of this text. Unpublished documents of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Nirodbaran are
unambiguously under Ashram Trust ownership.
Fact 4: Heehs has extensively used material and research from Ashram Archives which
is intellectual property (IP) of the Ashram Trust. The value of the book is primarily due
to this IP, and both the author and the publisher have stated this in promoting the book.
All the references, quotations and other historical material has been gathered by the
Ashram Archives from various libraries and government records around the world and
has been researched and organised by the Ashram’s researchers over 40 years. This
researched data is therefore legally the intellectual property (IP) of the Ashram Trust. The
Trust has not given Heehs any permission to use this material by its copyright permission.
The use of this material amounts to theft of IP. This theft has been confirmed by workers
of the Archives in their letter to the Ashram Trust dated 20.9.2008.
Fact 5: Heehs has used approximately 18 photographs of Sri Aurobindo which are of
high-quality (and some rare) taken from the Ashram Archives.
CUP guidelines on copyright require that:
"Permission must be obtained to reproduce all illustrative material, such as maps,
photographs, charts, graphs, and tables."
To the best of my knowledge and based on the documents I have received from you so
far, no permission was sought for printing these photos and none appears to have been
granted. I understand that permission for photographs is normally given from the
Department of Physical Education. No such permission was granted from the PED.
Fact 6: Heehs has signed a separate contract with CUP granting them from his side full
worldwide rights for all editions in all languages of all the text and research material
used in his book. This includes all the research content and intellectual property of the
Ashram Archives, all the published and unpublished quotations of Sri Aurobindo,
Mother and disciples used in the book.
Heehs has granted CUP more rights than he possesses legally or has received legally from
SAAT. This in itself involves multiple legal violations.
In addition to the above, CUP guidelines state that:
"If your contract with us grants Columbia University Press world rights in all
languages, you have a legal obligation to get permission to use the material you wish
to quote in all languages and for all editions."
The Ashram Trust’s contract with Heehs does not explicitly cover this requirement of
CUP. In this matter Heehs is in violation of both his contracts with the Ashram Trust and
his contract with CUP.
In conclusion, facts numbered 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 involve five distinct violations of copyright and
intellectual property of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. The Ashram Trust has the right to
initiate legal proceedings on all five counts and can press criminal charges against both the
author and the publisher of the book. Based on the above stated violations of its permission,
the Ashram Trust can withdraw its copyright permission with immediate effect and demand
immediate halt of all sales of the book globally.
As a public charitable trust, the Ashram must be seen to take all necessary steps to prevent
misuse of its properties including its copyright and its intellectual properties, failing which it
could face charges of mismanagement of Trust properties.
Legal opinion on Criminal violations
1. The Government of Orissa has already declared that Mr Peter Heehs’ book contains
"objectionable matters depicting distorted facts about the life and character of Sri Aurobindo"
and "matters which are deliberately and maliciously intended to insult". It has declared that
publication of the book is punishable under Sections 295A and 153A of the Indian Penal
Code. Furthermore, under Section 95 subsection (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure the
Government has declared the book forfeited. As author of the book, Heehs is therefore an
accessory to criminal offences.
2. Peter Heehs was summoned by the JMFC court in Barbil to respond to charges of
impersonation and defamation. But Mr Heehs has so far wilfully and wantonly avoided
presence at the court by repeatedly lying to the court that a) he has gone abroad, b) he is busy
with elections, c) he is busy writing a book. Heehs has declared to the court that his official
residential address is 3 J N Street which is not his residence but is in fact the Ashram’s
Archives department. The address is not even his work place as Heehs has already been
expelled from the Archives by the Ashram Trust. All of these lies to the court are criminal
violations that directly and indirectly involve the Ashram Trust.
3. Subsequently the Magistrate of Barbil issued a non-bailable warrant summoning Heehs to
his court. Heehs then evaded the warrant by hiding from the police while the police were
searching for him all over Pondicherry including within Ashram properties. The warrant was
momentarily stayed which stay has lapsed on June 26th. Under the circumstances Mr Heehs is
a criminal who is evading arrest, and by protecting him the Ashram Trustees are harbouring a
4. Mr Ulrich Morhoff has been promoting and selling the book from his website in the name
of the Ashram school. Although recently the Ashram Trust asked him to remove the name of
the school from this website, Ulrich continues to promote and sell the book as part of his
work in the Ashram which is reported in the Ashram’s annual report. Contempt of court
proceedings are in progress in the Orissa High Court regarding this very matter. Since the
Ashram stands guarantee for Ulrich and since his work is part of the Ashram’s work, the
Trustees of the Ashram are abetting Ulrich’s crime.
5. In view of the above, the Ashram Trustees are liable to criminal procedures that will put
the Ashram community to great embarrassment and inconvenience. In order to protect the
Ashram community, the Trustees should take the following precautionary steps immediately:
a) inform the Pondicherry police of the whereabouts of Mr Heehs
b) issue suitable show-cause notices to Heehs and Ulrich
c) remove Mr Heehs’ name from the Ashram’s prosperity list and not extend any help
to him in any manner whatsoever either latently or patently
d) publicly dissociate from the book
e) withdraw the copyright permission for the book
f) take suitable steps to stop the book’s circulation all over the world.