The Delhi High Court has asked retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and former lieutenant governor of Puducherry, Kiran Bedi, to assist it in a plea pertaining to the welfare and protection of rights of women living in an ashram run by absconding ‘godman’ Virendra Dev Dixit in the national capital’s Rohini area.
A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad on September 22 observed that Bedi was not aware of the listing of the matter on the said date and the counsel for the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) took an undertaking to inform her about the listing of the case on October 7, 2022. The Registrar General was also directed to inform Bedi about the same. “Ms Kiran Bedi is requested to assist this court in the matter on the next date of hearing,” the court said.
A report was submitted by the Additional Sessions Judge, North-West Rohini Courts, who is the chairperson of a committee overseeing the welfare of the women living at Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya in Rohini, constituted by the High Court earlier in April. Taking the report on record, the court directed that a copy of the same be “furnished to all parties enabling them to comply with directions/ recommendations which have been made in the larger interest of the Adhyatmik Vidyalaya”.
The High Court had on April 26 asked Bedi to supervise the functioning of the committee to “enforce the fundamental rights of the women and to ensure that their legal rights are adequately protected”. The Additional Session Judge, North-West, Rohini Courts, Delhi, was appointed as the chairperson of the committee, which included members from the DCW, District Magistrate (North West), Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Against Women Cell) having jurisdiction over the area among others.
“The functioning of the said Committee shall be supervised by Ms Kiran Bedi, former Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry – who has very kindly consented to shoulder the responsibility in that capacity. It shall be the obligation of the GNCTD to provide whatever assistance is required by her in discharge of its functioning,” the court directed in April.
The High Court had in a previous hearing expressed its shock at the state of affairs which was prevailing in the institution. It had directed a team to inspect the ashram premises in 2017 wherein the counsel for the DCW had submitted that she did not find doors on the internal cubicles of the toilets and only a single door existed for a group of cubicle toilets. Several other aspects were also noted by her in her report. She further submitted that over 100 girls were housed in “animal-like conditions with no privacy” at the premises.
The court had, however, made it clear in its April order that the institution shall be free to pursue its religious and spiritual activities provided none of them infringe any fundamental or other right of any inmate or any other person.
The matter reached the High Court after an NGO filed a PIL. The High Court subsequently in December 2017 had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the alleged illegal confinement of several women and minor girls at the ashram.