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K'taka: Murugha math seer accused of sexually abusing minor girls arrested

 

Chitradurga:  A Karnataka seer booked for alleged sexual abuse of minor girls was arrested on Thursday, a day before a local court was set to take up the anticipatory bail plea of the chief pontiff of the Muruga Math.

Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, booked under the POCSO Act for alleged sexual abuse of high school girls wsa arrested following interrogation, police sources said, even as a group of advocates sought a probe under the state high court's supervision.
A local court here adjourned to Friday the hearing of the anticipatory bail plea filed by the Lingayat seer.

As political parties in the poll-bound state tread carefully on the charges against Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the court here on Thursday gave the adjournment order on the bail petition of the chief pontiff of the influential Lingayat math. The seer has been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) for alleged sexual abuse of two high school girls.

A group of advocates has written to the Registrar General of the Karnataka High Court claiming that the investigation against the accused seer "is not being carried out in an unbiased, free and fair manner."
"He (the seer) has not even been summoned for investigation or his medical examination conducted. These lacunas in the investigation show that there is already prejudice caused on part of the investigation," the letter claimed.

The seminary's administrative officer S K Basavarajan. who is facing allegations that he had a role in the two minor girls levelling the sexual abuse charges against the seer, meanwhile, said he was not involved in any conspiracy against the pontiff and he has done his duty by trying to protect the children.

Basavarajan and his wife were on Thursday granted bail by the first additional district and sessions judge's court here in a case of sexual harassment and kidnapping that was registered against them on a complaint by a woman, who is said to be a staff at the math.
Basavarajan said the case against him and his wife was "completely false" and a "counter" to cases filed against the seer and four others as the pontiff's followers in the math believe in his involvement and conspiracy behind the girls' charges against the pontiff. In a related development, he was removed from his post by the math on Thursday.

The pontiff, who had applied for anticipatory bail on Monday, was additionally charged under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on Tuesday as one of the two victims was from the SC community.

The Second Additional District and Sessions Court had already issued notices to the Child Protection Unit seeking its objections to the bail plea under POCSO Act.

The police in Chitradurga had earlier this week produced the two victims for recording their statements under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code(Cr.PC).
Apart from the seer, a total of five people, including the warden of the monastery's hostel, are accused in the case.

It is alleged that the two girls, aged 15 and 16, studying in a school run by the math and residing in a hostel, also run by the monastery, were sexually abused between January 2019 and June 2022.

Apart from the POCSO and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, cases have also been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the seer.
In their letter, the group of advocates called for immediate intervention of the high court in monitoring the ongoing inquiry of the case in the interest of justice, so as to ensure fair and free investigations.

"The accused herein being an influential person not even being summoned by the investigating officer, let alone being arrested is utterly shocking," advocates Siddharth Bhupathi, Shreeram T Nayak, Ganesh Prasad B S, Ganesh V and Ponnanna K A said.

Alleging that the MLA of Chitradurga, Thippareddy has been visiting the seer regularly and has been extending his "hand of support" in favour of the accused, it said Home Minister Araga Jnanendra is issuing a press statement that an employee of the math was conspiring against the Swamiji.
"(This) clearly causes prejudice on the investigating authority in carrying out the investigation in a fair and free manner."

Further pointing out that the swamiji held a press briefing claiming innocence, it said that since the seer has a large following across Karnataka his statements would cause prejudice.

Breaking his silence for the first time, Basavarajan, a former MLA, who along with his wife were accused of conspiring against the seer by math officials, said every thing will be known to everyone in the days to come, and if the children were right, they will get justice.

"I have no role in this case, there is no conspiracy on my part, I'm being intentionally accused. As the case is before the Court, I don't want to comment more."
Speaking to reporters, he said everything will be known to everyone in the days to come.

He was responding to a query as to whether the charges against the seer were true and were there any irregular happenings in the math.

"I have given protection to those children, I have done my duty to an extent possible. When those children were at a police station in Bengaluru, my wife, son and I had gone there in the night and brought them back by giving in writing, and handed them over to their parents...if the children are true they will get justice, if not they will not," Basavarajan added. (PTI)

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