Rape-accused Karnataka seer applies for bail
Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru was arrested late on September 1 after days of intense public pressure.
Bengaluru: Influential Karnataka seer, Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, who is accused of raping two minor girls, approached a court in Chitradurga on Saturday for bail on the ground of his ill health.
Sharanaru, who heads the Jagadguru Murugarajendra Vidyapeetha Mutt, was arrested late on September 1 after days of intense public pressure. He is accused of raping two girls, 15 and 16, between 2019 and 2022, and was booked by the police for rape and under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 on August 25. On Thursday, a local court remanded him to 14-day judicial custody. Hours after his arrest, the police moved him to a local hospital after he complained of chest pain.
On Saturday, the police brought him to the district hospital under tight security from a deputy superintendent of police’s office, where he is being questioned. After the tests, he would be taken back to the DSP’s office for further questioning, people familiar with the matter said.
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The two girls, aged 15 and 16, told state authorities on August 26 that Sharanaru had raped them for almost three years. The same day, the police registered an FIR against the seer, charging him with rape and under provisions of the Pocso Act. But despite growing outrage and the seriousness of the charges, for seven days, the police didn’t move to interrogate the seer or take him in custody even as a number of politicians, including former chief minister BS Yediyurappa and a section of the state cabinet, publicly backed him and said the charges were linked to a power tussle within the monastery.
After intense public pressure and speculation that the government was dragging its feet for political reasons, the seer was finally arrested late on Thursday night after his anticipatory bail was deferred by a local court. The seer has consistently denied the charges, and claimed they were motivated.
Of the five people named in the FIR, Sharanaru and hostel warden Rashmi have been arrested, so far.
On Saturday, two other suspects -- Paramashivaiah and Gangadharaiah -- approached the court, seeking anticipatory bail. The court accepted the pleas and asked the public prosecutor to file objections, if any, by Monday.
A district court in Karnataka’s Chitradurga has, meanwhile, issued notices to two minor girls following an anticipatory bail plea filed by two people accused of abetting the alleged assault on the minor girls by the seer.
A local court on Friday asked the police to produce the seer before it and appeared unimpressed with his medical report. Sharanaru was taken to court in a wheelchair at around 4pm and remanded to police custody for four days till September 5.
“The court pulled up the police for not producing the accused before it at the time of the hearing. The court then passed an order to produce him before the court at the earliest and following he was brought to the court in a police van and produced him before the court,” said an official in the know of the development.
Chitradurga district and sessions judge BK Komala instructed prison officials to produce the seer before the court. During the hearing, the petitioners failed to produce the documents issued by the doctor regarding the health problem. The judge then adjourned the hearing and instructed Sharanaru to appear in the court in person.
The prosecution, which went out of its way to be considerate to the seer, requested that the accused be allowed to use video conference but the court dismissed the request. The judge asked the district jail authorities to submit a medical report based on which he was shifted to a hospital.
In its order, the court asked the police to ensure medical care in custody. It stressed that the seer should be taken to the hospital only if his health condition worsens. However, soon after the proceedings, the police took him back to the district hospital.
Judge Komala also gave directions that the accused seer should not be taken anywhere during police custody, ruling out any possibility of shifting him to a Bengaluru hospital. This came after the judge found that the health condition of the seer was fine even though the district health officer said the accused had complained of acute chest pain last night and two doctors from the district hospital examined him. Efforts seemed to be on to shift him to Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, a magisterial court in Bengaluru has ordered the re-issuance of a non-bailable warrant against Sharanu in connection with a property-related matter in Kengeri Hobli.
The dispute is with regard to a seven-acre property in Sulikere village that was allegedly sold for a price that was below its prevailing market value.
PS Prakash, a devotee of the mutt, has filed a criminal complaint. Following the non-appearance of the seer in the matter, the additional chief metropolitan magistrate reissued the NBW and adjourned the hearing till November 10.
The case relates to seven acres and 18 guntas of land in the village, which was sold to Anand Kumar for ₹49 lakh. The market value of the land was over ₹7 crore, the complaint alleges.