Karnataka seer released from jail after 14 months in Pocso case
KV Stanley convener of Mysuru-based NGO, ‘Odanadi Seva Samsthe’ expressed disappointment over the seer’s bail saying his release would “impact” the survivors
Chitradurga Murugharajendra Bruhan Mutt former pontiff Shivamurthy Sharanaru, who has been in judicial custody since 14 months facing charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act was released from jail on Thursday, police said.
The seer who was released at 12.40 pm on Thursday, accompanied by his devotees, left the prison premises and proceeded to Davangere, adhering to the Karnataka high court’s directive that restricted his entry in Chitradurga district.
The high court had granted bail to the seer on November 8 in two cases related to the sexual assault of two high school girls. The release order was issued by the second additional district and sessions court in Chitradurga on Wednesday after examining the conditions imposed by the HC and verifying the documents but due to a delay in reaching the jail, the release process was completed on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, a plea filed by the government counsel on behalf of the prosecution sought to convert the body warrant issued against the seer in the second Pocso case into a judicial custody order, essentially seeking to stop his release from jail.
During the hearing, the prison superintendent, MM Marakatti, sought the judge’s opinion on the “legal complexities surrounding his release” while a petition seeking judicial custody was underway. In response, the judge instructed the prosecution to provide a written communication regarding the demand for judicial custody in the second case and adjourned the hearing, allowing the release process to take place.
A case against the seer was registered on August 26, 2022, at Nazarabad police station in Mysuru for allegedly sexually assaulting two minor students under the Pocso Act and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The case was subsequently transferred to Chitradurga rural police station, leading to his arrest on September 1.
After his release, the seer refrained from commenting on the case, stating, “I will not talk about this case for now.” He reiterated the advice from his legal counsel to remain silent on the matter.
“Considering the court’s stipulation that the seer cannot reside in Chitradurga, he was moved to Davangere Viraktha Mutt after leaving jail,” people familiar with the matter said. The court’s conditions for his bail include refraining from visiting Chitradurga “until the trial concludes, providing surety, attending court proceedings through video conference, submitting a bond surety of ₹2 lakh, surrendering the passport to the court, and refraining from threatening witnesses or engaging in repeated offences”.
Meanwhile, KV Stanley convener of Mysuru-based NGO, ‘Odanadi Seva Samsthe’— that filed the complaint against the pontiff — expressed disappointment over the seer’s bail saying his release would “impact” the survivors.
“Muruga Shree’s bail was granted due to the investigating officers’ mistakes. Only if a high-level investigation agency had been involved, the release would not have occurred so easily,’’ Stanley said.
“The release of the accused will potentially impact the affected children. Swamiji’s devotees have raised slogans outside the jail... this will cause fear among the victims. Odanadi will continue the legal battle for the cancellation of his bail,’’ Stanley added.