Self-styled godman booked for organising congregation at Delhi templeUpdated: May 23, 2020 22:19 IST
New Delhi: A self-styled godman, Daati Maharaj, was booked on Saturday for allegedly organising a religious congregation at a temple on Friday, in contravention of the nationwide lockdown in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Several photographs in which many people, including children, were seen attending a religious congregation surfaced on social media on Saturday morning. Several social media users said the photograph was of Daati Maharaj and his followers.
Hindustan Times could not independently verify the authenticity of the photos, but Delhi Police confirmed they were of the self-styled preacher at his temple in Asola.
Deputy commissioner of police (south) Atul Kumar Thakur said the visuals of a ceremony at Shanidham Mandir in Asola near Mehrauli showed that people present there were not following social distancing norms, and that the temple had been opened to the public despite government orders that has prohibited religious gatherings.
Thakur said Daati Maharaj — the chief priest of the temple, and some others were at the temple for nearly three hours for the ceremony, starting at 7.30pm on Friday.
During a preliminary enquiry, Thakur said, police found that Daati Maharaj, the chief priest of temple, along with some others had gathered for a ceremony for nearly three hours, starting at 7.30 pm on Friday.
The officer said that a case under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, Section 54 of Disaster Management Act, and Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act has been registered at Maidan Garhi police station.
“Being the chief priest of the temple, Daati Maharaj has been named in the FIR along with others, who are being identified,” Thakur said, adding that the investigating team has began their probe and are questioning Daati Maharaj and his associates who were present at the temple on Friday evening.
The self-styled preacher could not be contacted for his comment. A person, who answered the phone on a number mentioned on the temple’s website, said Daati Maharaj was “present in the temple but was unavailable for a comment”.
A senior investigator, who did not want to be named, said they have learnt that a political leader was also present in the religious congregation.
“We are examining CCTV footage from cameras installed at the temple and on the road outside. All those who violated the lockdown rules will be identified and booked in the case,” the investigator added.
The self-styled preacher and his two associates were booked in 2018 for allegedly raping and sexually assaulting an inmate of his ashram. A case was registered on the woman’s complaint and it was transferred to the crime branch. The case was later transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).