The Chief priest of Badrinath temple was arrested Tuesday by Delhi Police for allegedly confining a 30-year-old pregnant woman inside a hotel room in South Delhi’s Mehrauli area and molesting her.
The priest’s cousin, who was staying with him, was also arrested for allegedly conniving in the incident which was reported around 8.30 pm Monday.
The woman, who belongs to Uttarakhand, alleged that the priest, Keshavan Namboothiri, rang her up Monday afternoon and told her he was unwell and wanted to meet her.
The woman alleged that on reaching the hotel room, the 36-year-old priest pulled her towards him and touched her inappropriately. She claimed she pushed him and ran out of the room and he ran behind to stop her. The woman also claimed she found cigarette stubs and could smell alcohol when she entered the room.
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She claimed the priest sent her an SMS Monday night apologising for the incident. The priest, however, told police he had apologised for scolding her two days ago and not for the alleged incident. The priest told police the woman was inside the room for less than five minutes and he has no clue why she has accused him of the crime. A PhD in Sanskrit, Namboothiri is believed to have told police that he had consumed alcohol in the hotel, sources said.
He is said to have claimed the woman had been wanting to meet him but he was unable to spare time. He agreed to meet her after she called him Monday evening and insisted on seeing him, sources said.
The priest, who is said to know politicians, film stars and businessmen, knew the woman’s family, which owns hotels in Badrinath, for more than 13 years and was in regular touch with her husband and father.
Police sources also said they suspected there was some tension between the priest and the family in Badrinath over the latter’s business and this needed to be probed. Police said the room was booked by former lobbyist Niira Radia. Namboothiri is believed to have told police he came to Delhi from Kerala with his cousin on January 2 and checked into the hotel using Radia’s driver’s identity proof.
The Shree Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee said it had suspended Namboothiri following news reports about his arrest. “He can be reinstated in case he gets acquitted of the charges,” Ganesh Godiyal, chairman of the committee, told reporters in Dehradun. Namboothiri belongs to Talipparamba in North Kerala’s Kannur district and comes from a family whose men have traditionally been working as priests in Badrinath. –
with inputs from ENS, Dehradun & Thiruvananthapuram