U.G.L.E and G.L.I.

P. Venkatraman


As many of you may know we at UGLE are at variance with the Grand Lodge of India.

This situation arose out of actions taken by the GLI about a decade back.

UGLE is now revisiting this situation and representatives of the UGLE have gone round the country meeting the Brethren of the 3 District of the UGLE at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. The meetings have been held with a view to elicit the views of the brethren, especially the younger and junior brethren.

At the District of Bombay and Northern India under the UGLE we felt that we must put out a 'position paper' that summarises the situation. The purpose of posting the paper is twofold.

1. To inform and educate younger and junior brethren on the fact of the case, so that they can form their own view.

2. To present a summary of the situation to the more senior brethren who may be aware of parts of the history.

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Many of the brethren especially Junior members may not be aware of the developments regarding formation of the Grand Lodge of India in 1961 by the three Grand Lodges i.e. United Grand Lodge of England. Grand Lodge of Ireland and Grand Lodge of Scotland and its subsequent derecognition in 1992.

This paper is therefore to give information about the background of events so far.

1. The Three Grand Lodges made it a condition precedent to the formation (recognition) of Grand Lodge of India that certain rights and privileges will be granted to Lodges not joining the new Grand Lodge by means of treaties (concordat) between it and each of the existing Grand Lodge such as.

(a) Their right to the same privileges and courtesies which are now extended by three Constitutions to one another (multiple membership)

(b) Their right not to have undue pressure put on them to join the new Grand Lodge at a later stage.

(c) The existing Lodges under the three Grand Lodges were to opt to remain with three Grand Lodges or to join the new Grand Lodge of India.

3. The result of the ballot as far as English Constitution was concerned was 96 in Favor of the new Grand Lodge and 85 in favor of continuing under United Grand Lodge of England.

Note: 96 Lodges had agreed to join the Grand Lodge of India because of the assurance that their members would be able to retain their membership with English Constitution.

4. The Grand Lodge of India was consecrated in 1961.

5. Express guarantee for continued and unhindered functioning of Lodges that opted to remain under the English Constitution was explicitly provided and this was further ratified in a Concordat (Agreement) which was drawn up and signed by the Grand Lodge of England and the new Grand Lodge of India, the Concordat stipulated interalia.

a) That the Grand Master of our Grand Lodge would retain his jurisdiction over his District as provided in Rule 62 of our book of Constitutions.

b) That Grand Lodge of England would not warrant any new Lodge. (On the record there is no demand from the Grand Lodge of India for this, yet with a view to help new Grand Lodge to grow without competition the Grand Lodge of England had volunteered to have such clause).

c) That no undue pressure will be exerted on brethren to change their allegiance (emphasis ours)

d) That the Lodges remaining under Grand Lodge of England have the right to the same privileges and courtesies, which are now extended by the three Grand Lodges to one another (multiple membership intervisitation between Lodges under the jurisdiction of three Grand Lodges).

6. Fraternal harmony and good will prevailed overall. Brethren who are members of different Grand Lodges were provided facility to participate in the meetings of District Grand Lodges of E.C. and Regional Grand Lodges of Grand Lodge of India. At these meetings District Grand Lodges (E.C.) and Regional Grand Lodges (GLI) even exchanged official deputations.

This happy state of affairs went on for well over 30 years. The Grand Lodge of India went on consecrating new Lodges all over India taking their tally of Lodges from 145 in 1961 to over 300 presently. Our District consolidated our 28 Lodges (including 5 Lodges in the north due to amalgamation of District of Northern India with Bombay).

7. Crisis In Relationship

Throughout this period although sly private remarks were made about our allegiance to a foreign Grand Lodge and our patriotism was questioned, there was no open hostility towards us. On our part we could in no way harm the interest of Grand Lodge of India, as by the concordat we were limited to our 28 Lodges.

However in 1986 the Grand Lodge of India celebrated its Silver Jubilee and sadly the then Grand Master of GLI M.W. Bro. Prakash Narain mounted an assault on the continued existence of Lodges under the foreign Constitutions and put forth a demand that these Lodges be wound up. He floated a disinformation that the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland too were not interested in their Lodges in India. This assault was continued with greater vigour by successive Grand Masters the Regional Grand Masters and others of Grand lodge of India printed speeches of these worthies are on record.

There were sizeable number of brethren who were members of Lodges under different Constitutions. Pressure was mounted by Grand Lodge of India on these brethren to severe their connections with our Lodges. Threats were held out that those who continued their dual or multiple connections would not be given Indian ranks and promotions. Inter visitations became an embarrassment and relationship between the different Constitutions worsened. This culminated in the Grand Lodge of India proposal to amend its Book of constitutions to prohibit dual membership.

Grand Lodge of India held a Special Communication in Delhi in July 1992 to get these amendments passed although their annual Communication was to be held in Bhopal in Western Region) in November 1992. The purpose of holding the special meeting in Delhi was to have few Brethren to attend the meeting in order to pass the amendments by show of hands. They were convinced that if the amendments were to be brought up at the annual Communication of the GLI in Western Region, the amendments would not be passed.

These steps were clearly in breach of the Concordat (Agreement). Despite warning from the Grand Lodge of England, the amendments were passed and made into law. Thus Grand Lodge of England, Ireland and Scotland were left with no option other than to withdraw recognition. The derecognition was officially announced in September 1992. The GLI stand is that the amendments do not constitute a breach of the concordat. The right of the GLI to amend its rules in the normal course is not in question. However, in the instant case the act of its amending the rules was culmination of persistent efforts on the part of GLI to compel then brethren to disown their association with other Constitutions.

As a consequence of the new amendments made by the GLI there was a flow of members from one constitution to the other and by the end of 1992 the cut-off date the rupture was complete.

It is not only the Grand Lodge of England, Ireland and Scotland that took exception to the amendments to the Rules of the GLI. In protest, some senior members of the GLI at the cost of their high Grand ranks resigned from the GLI Lodges and joined our Lodges. In Deolali all the 78 members of one GLI Lodge resigned en-mass, returned the warrant of GLI and joined the Lodge under E.C.

A number of GLI Lodge also reacted and broke away in protest. This exodus formed the nucleus of four break away Grand Lodges of Upper India. Southern India, Western India and Eastern India.

In the wake of derecognition of GLI one of the dissenting Lodge in Bombay (Lodge Vishwanath) was raided by order of higher ups and its warrant was seized by the GLI. The brethren of the Lodge en-mass joined England Lodges and petitioned for a warrant from Grand Lodge of England to start a new lodge to be named “Lodge of Shankar”. The warrant was granted and the Lodge was due to be consecrated in August 1993. Against this consecration of new Lodge the GLI filed a suit against United Grand Lodge of England and succeeded in getting a stay order for consecration of the new Lodge. However the suit filed by the GLI was dismissed in our favor in 1997 on the grounds that no cause of action existed, but the court ordered continuance of the stay order, in case GLI preferred appeal. GLI has gone on appeal and the appeal is pending since 1997. In the meantime the Grand Secretary of GLI in whose name the appeal was filed died and GLI obtained permission from the Court to replace the name of the new Grand Secretary as Appellant, but the Registrar of the court has found certain irregularities in the papers filed by them and the GLI has been asked to rectify, but the GLI knowing fully the weakness of their case they are not taking any action, therefore the case is not coming up for hearing. As far as GLI is concerned since the consecration of new Lodge is under stay order, their purpose is served and they are not interested in quick disposal of appeal.

The GLI took initiative for rapprochement in 1997 and two representatives of GLI met our Grand Secretary and a few other Grand Officers in London. After discussion a document called “possible framework” was drawn up as part of that meeting. Our Grand Secretary made it plain to the representatives of the GLI that the “possible framework” would be discussed with the District Grand Masters in India for their views before proceeding any further.

W. Bro. Dobson came to India in Octrober 1997 with the “possible framework” paper to ascertain the views of the District Grand Masters as well as Heads of Irish and Scottish Constitutions in India. At the meeting of District Grand Masters (ours and those of Irish and Scottish) serious objection was taken to the demand made by the GLI in the “possible framework” that our Lodges should be wound up in say ten years time. W. Bro. Dobson was informed that the winding up issue was totally unacceptable to us here in India. In any case, it was also pointed out, there was no way our Lodges could be wound up as no provision existed in the Book of Constitutions for such a step.

The intention of the GLI are thus obvious. As long as GLI entertains the idea of having our Lodges extinguished, no progress can be made in re-establishing our links with them. Needless to reiterate such an attitude is against the specific conditions laid down as precondition for the formation of the Grand Lodge of India. Further more GLI should withdraw the amendments to their rules prohibiting dual membership and maintain status quo ante 1992.