NEW DELHI: Aghast at revelations that more than 100 women and minor girls were locked up behind metal doors in “animal-like conditions” — with many being sexually exploited for years — inside a fortress-like Ashram, the Delhi high Court on Wednesday ordered a CBI investigation against the organisation Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya and its founder, Virender Dev Dixit.
A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the CBI director to immediately set up a special investigation team (SIT) to investigate FIRs lodged in Delhi and case records relating to complaints of missing girls, commission of sexual offences and even a case of suicide in the ashram.
The HC’s directions came after it was informed about the state of the ashram by the court-appointed inspection panel, consisting of lawyers Nandita Rao, Ajay Verma and Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal. The court issued its order following a hearing that lasted nearly four hours.
“There are cases registered in both Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. CBI shall investigate the cases which have been registered in Delhi as well as examine the daily diary entries and proceed with the inquiries and registration of the cases in accordance with law. In so far as the cases registered in Uttar Pradesh are concerned, the CBI shall file a status report within three weeks from today before this court,” it further directed.
The set of buildings housing the ashram also came under scrutiny by the bench, which ordered the North Corporation commissioner to investigate if they are legal or unauthorised. It asked the commissioner to take prompt action if any illegality was discovered.
The HC also directed the ashram and its founder to furnish by Thursday full details and particulars of every inmate lodged in the two buildings housing male and female staff and followers. The court also sought information about the whereabouts of one of the girls, at present missing from the institute.
A PIL filed by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment had alerted the court to the plight of the inmates of the Ashram on Tuesday. It had dubbed the situation in the institute as being “similar” to that witnessed in an ashram in Haryana, in an indirect reference to Gurmeet Ram Rahim‘s Dera Sacha Sauda sect.
The court then constituted the inspection panel which reported the “horrible” living conditions of over 100 girls and women, informing the court they were living in “animal-like conditions with no privacy even for bathing”. The inmates seemed to be under the influence of drugs, it said. The panel members told the court that they too were assaulted by the ashram staff and kept locked up for nearly an hour when they went to inspect the institute.
The panel members were rescued only after additional police force was called, the court was told, prompting the bench to consider initiating contempt of court action against the institute’s staff. The HC said it would take up the issue on the next date of hearing.
The panel also told the court that there was an adjoining building where male staff were being housed and that there was a possibility that there were minor boys there and that it was probably connected to the women’s building by an underground tunnel. The bench ordered that the adjoining building be also inspected by the panel as well as the child welfare committee of the area which shall be provided police protection.
The Delhi government’s health department was directed to depute a team of doctors to visit both premises to medically examine all the inmates to ensure their well-being. Source : timesofindia