South African Mrs India Pageant fight ends with high court ruling

JOHANNESBURG: A long-standing fight over the legal rights to the Mrs India South Africa pageant has ended with a high court ruling that the current owners of the title had forged the signatures of the original creator.

Anusha Bisaal, who established the pageant in 2005 to give married, divorced and widowed women a chance at pageantry, initiated legal action against Annulutchmee Thaver and Deon Ganas, who had taken over the running of the pageant a few years ago.

After Bisaal discovered that the company she had originally registered to run the pageant, with herself and her husband Roshan as the owners, was transferred into Thaver’s name, she decided to investigate the matter.

“It was proven by a handwriting expert that my company, Mrs India South Africa, was fraudulently transferred onto Thaver’s name by means of copying and pasting my and my husband’s signatures,” Bisaal said, adding that she or her husband had never transferred their membership interests to Thaver or Ganas.

Bisaal had instructed a forensic document examiner, Mike Irving, to provide an expert opinion on the signatures.

Irving’s report concluded that the signature of Thaver, which was applied to the company registration amendment letter on the Mrs India South Africa letterhead, was cut and pasted.

Judge Gregory Kruger ruled in the Durban High Court that the documents be declared a forgery.

Bisaal said she would reinstate the title awarded to Saumya Tiwari Gautam at the Mrs India South Africa 2018 pageant hosted by Thaver and Ganas.

Medical doctor Gautam was also embroiled in legal action against Thaver and Ganas, who stripped her of her title for allegedly bringing the company into disrepute when she publicly stated that they had not delivered on their promise of prizes worth almost half a million grand.

Ganas and Thaver also released a joint statement, in which the couple said they would challenge the judgement.

“Judge Kruger has identified the document as being forged, but did not identify the culprit, which means that it releases us of these allegations,” the statement said.