Launched in 1947, Chandamama went on to become India’s favourite children’s magazine. This was before the exponential digital explosion in the last few years that choked the print industry.
In January this week, the Bombay High Court issued orders for selling intellectual property rights of the once popular Chandamama. The children’s magazine has been under the custody of the official liquidator Ltd since 2014 as Geodesic Ltd, which is the owner of the magazine, is battling provisional liquidation on alleged fraud and syphoning of funds.
Launched in 1947, Chandamama went on to become India’s favorite children’s magazine. This was before the exponential digital explosion in the last few years that choked the print industry.
Justice S J Kathawalla passed the High Court order which said that the directors of Geodesic have 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”.
Currently, the three directors of Geodesic including Kiran Prakash Kulkarni, Pankaj Shrivastav and Prashant Mulekar — along with the Geodesic’s chartered accountant, Dinesh Jajodia, are under arrest.
The court added that the task of sale proceedings will be on the ED with the special court set up under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, as they will be proceeds of crime, and thereby will be dealt accordingly.
However, the court “kept open” the issue on whether the official liquidator/creditors of the company are entitled to receive the sale proceeds submitted with the PML Court as “proceeds of crime”.
Chandamama has been valued at over Rs 25 crore. In addition, the ED has attached assets worth Rs 16 crore of the Geodesic Ltd directors under PMLA, as per the sources.
Founded by B Nagi Reddy and Chakrapani, the first issue of Chandamama was published in Telugu and Tamil in July 1947, a month before India’s independence. The children magazine was published in 13 languages, which also included Sanskrit, Sindhi and Sinhala by the time 1990s came.
A 94 per cent stake was acquired by Geodesic in Chandamama in March 2007 from B Viswanatha Reddy, the son of Nagi Reddy, and Vinod Sethi, for Rs 10.2 crore after the magazine ran into financial problems because of issues such as decreasing circulation and the resulting falling advertising revenue.
Trouble came again for Chandamama in June 2014 as the official liquidator of the Bombay HC attained possession of Geodesic’s assets. It happened after the technology firm failed to make payments of $162 million (nearly Rs 1,000 crore) to its 15 Foreign Currency Convertible Bond (FCCB) holders in April 2014.
In July 2018, it was found that offline and digital copies of Chandamama with about 6,000 hand-illustrated stories and 36 fictional characters, besides documents pertaining to patents and copyright of the magazine as well as 640 Vikram-Vetal episodes were lying in gunny bags at a warehouse of the official liquidator in Mumbai for more than four years, reported The Indian Express.
Geodesic and its top officials came into financial trouble after the ED, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police and the Income Tax department alleged siphoning and money laundering of $125 million (Rs 812 crore) and tax evasion.