It was launched in the year of India’s Independence and went on to become the country’s favourite childhood companion, at least until the digital explosion this century. But now, Chennai-based children’s magazine Chandamama is on the block.
On January 11, the Bombay High Court ordered the sale of the intellectual property rights of Chandamama, which has been in the custody of the official liquidator since 2014, with Geodesic Ltd — the company that owns the magazine — facing provisional liquidation on allegations of fraud and siphoning of funds.
The order of the High Court, passed by Justice S J Kathawalla, said that the directors of Geodesic have appeared before the court and given their “unconditional consent” for the “possession and sale of tangible and intangible assets of Geodesic Ltd, including its subsidiary companies (both Indian and overseas companies) in favour of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as ordered by the court of law”. Read this story in Bangla
Three directors of Geodesic — Kiran Prakash Kulkarni, Prashant Mulekar and Pankaj Shrivastav — and the firm’s chartered accountant, Dinesh Jajodia, are currently under arrest.
The High Court also said that the proceeds of the sale will be deposited by the ED with the special court established under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, as proceeds of crime, and will be dealt with as per law.
“….the issue as to whether the official liquidator/creditors of the company are entitled to receive the sale proceeds deposited with the PML Court as proceeds of crime, is kept open,” the order stated.
According to sources, Chandamama alone has been valued at over Rs 25 crore. Apart from Chandamama, the ED has also attached assets worth Rs 16 crore of the directors of Geodesic Ltd under PMLA.
The first issue of Chandamama, founded by B Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani, was published in Telugu and Tamil in July, 1947. By the late 1990s, it was published in 13 languages, including Sindhi, Sinhala and Sanskrit.
In March 2007, Geodesic acquired a 94 per cent stake in Chandamama from B Viswanatha Reddy, son of Nagi Reddy, and Vinod Sethi, former managing director of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, for Rs 10.2 crore after the magazine ran into financial trouble due to falling circulation and advertising revenue.
In June 2014, the official liquidator of the Bombay High Court took possession of Geodesic’s assets after the court allowed winding up of the technology firm that had failed to pay $162 million (approximately Rs 1,000 crore) to its 15 Foreign Currency Convertible Bond (FCCB) holders in April 2014.
In July 2018, The Indian Express reported that physical and digitised copies of Chandamama featuring at least 6,000 hand-illustrated stories and 36 fictional characters, 640 episodes of the king-ghost duo of Vikram-Vetal and documents relating to patents and copyright of the magazine have been lying in gunny bags at a warehouse of the official liquidator in Mumbai for over four years.
Geodesic and its top officials are under the scanner of the ED, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police and the Income Tax department for alleged siphoning and laundering of $125 million (Rs 812 crore) and tax evasion.