Rape Accused Seer Arrested as PM Modi Visits Karnataka
The head pontiff of the Muruga Mutt, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru, was arrested in Chitradurga around 10 pm on Thursday, the night before Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the state of Karnataka to inaugurate development projects. On Friday morning, he was remanded to 14-day judicial custody by Judge BK Komala of Second Additional District and Sessions Court, Chitradurga.
The seer was booked on August 26 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act (2012), as well as various other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), after two minor girls accused him of rape and sexual harassment. They were residing in a hostel run by the same mutt in Chitradurga. He evaded arrest for more than six days after the case was registered. He was briefly detained for questioning on August 29. He has denied all charges.
A complaint was registered in Nazarabad police station based on the complaint of C Chandrakumar, Legal and Inspection Officer of Mysore District Child Protection Unit. Swami Shivamurthy is the first accused, while Rashmi (warden of Akkamadevi hostel) and Basavaditya of the same Mutt are the second and third accused in the case.
Paramashivaiah of Mysore and advocate Gangadharaiah are the other accused in the case. Police have told reporters that the second accused in the case is presently being interrogated.
It is alleged that one of the minors was sexually abused by the Swamiji for three and a half years, while the other was abused for a year and a half. The high school girls told the Child Welfare Committee that the other accused were aware and complicit in the acts committed by him. The case has been registered against the seer based on the complaint of the Odanadi Seva Samsthe NGO in Mysore.
Swami Shivamurthy surrendered on September 1 after approaching the Chitradurga District Court seeking anticipatory bail. A bench headed by Second Additional District and Sessions Judge BK Komala on Thursday (September 1) heard the anticipatory bail application filed by advocate KN Viswanathaiah on behalf of the seer. A lawyer from the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority and another lawyer called Srinivas agreed to represent the victims.
After considering the opinion of the victims and their parents, the court agreed to the petition of advocate Srinivas. It gave Srinivas one more day to file objections and adjourned the hearing till September 2. However, later that day, the seer was arrested by the police.
The delay in the arrest of the accused caused outrage among several sections of the population. The seer is politically significant as he belongs to the influential Lingayat community, considered the most numerous caste in Karnataka. Both Rahul Gandhi and Amit Shah had met the seer during their recent visits to Karnataka this year.
Earlier this week, dalit groups held large-scale protests against the seer in Chitradurga, demanding his arrest and for registration of a case under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Members of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) had also met with officials of the Department of Women and Child Development in Karnataka and demanded action against the seer.
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