The Punjab and Haryana High Court has imposed a cost of Rs 20,000 on a self-claimed godman who lured a 23-year-old woman into a marriage, while dismissing his appeal against their divorce order passed by a Chandigarh court. The “godman”, then a 37-year-old, had got married to the woman after telling her that her boyfriend had a video showing them in a “compromising position” and making her believe that suicide was the only option to save her family’s reputation.
The division bench of Justices M M S Bedi and Gurvinder Singh Gill on Thursday observed that it to be a glaring example where “a Godman-like appellant creates a false impression in the minds of people by their sermons by reflecting that they have got divine powers and when the families fall into their trap, they use the undue influence to exploit them sexually.”
The alleged godman had come in contact with the girl’s family in 2010, claiming himself to “be a healer having divine powers being a staunch follower of Lord Hanuman”. He would address the woman as beti (daughter) who would, in turn, discuss all her personal matters with him. When the woman told him about her boyfriend, he “objected to (the) said feelings and friendship on the ground that it is not acceptable in Indian Society.”
He later accused her boyfriend of having “made a video wherein she was in a compromising position with him” and that he “was ready to blackmail her”. The respondent told the appellant that she was never indulged in any kind of physical relationship, so the question of any video recording does not arise.”
When the “godman” persisted that her boyfriend could have made a fake video using her photographs, the division bench, quoting the evidence said, “she fell in the trap of (the) appellant under blind belief as she considered that the appellant could not lie being a Godman”.
The woman went into extreme depression after these conversations and thought of killing herself. “At that point of time, the appellant again represented himself to be a saviour being a Godman and told the respondent to surrender herself to him so that he can make a very easy and safe path for her to get out of (the) said situation. The appellant told her that it would be best for her to get married with him and then to ran (sic) away to some undisclosed place and then …commit suicide so that the family of the respondent would remain under impression that she was living happily at her matrimonial home.”
The two got married in 2015 in a Panchkula temple without the knowledge of her family. During his later visits to her house he “used to take money on one pretext or the other and kept on promising (her) to take her away from the family members to avoid any kind of humiliation”. When the woman realised that the story created by the “godman” is fake, she thought of killing herself, but was saved by her brother while she was about to hang herself. The woman later took psychiatric help and applied for a divorce. The lower court allowed the plea last year.
‘During the trial, the court also relied on the statements of the woman’s psychiatrist to decide the case after the counsels, representing the man, attempted to draw favour on the basis of her mental condition. ‘
“There is no reason for this court to believe that the mental status of a young girl aged about 23 years, having relations with (her boyfriend), was not relished by the appellant and with an objective to satisfy his lust by misusing his status as Godman, he was able to use his undue influence to perturb her mind and achieve his malicious intentions by misrepresenting his age,” the order read.