Terming as “extremely suspicious” the conduct of the founder of a north Delhi-based ashram, where girls were allegedly kept in illegal confinement, the Delhi High Court today directed the CBI to submit a report on his whereabouts.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said if the ashram was a “spiritual” place, why were the girls and women being kept behind locked doors. It also said that if Virender Dev Dixit, the founder of the ashram, was preaching spirituality, he should come forward and there should be no need for the CBI to trace him.
The bench directed the ashram to submit its stand on an affidavit with regard to the various allegations made in a PIL against it by an NGO which has claimed that girls and women were illegally confined at the “spiritual university” in north Delhi’s Rohini area.
A three-member panel, appointed by the court to inspect the Rohini ashram and its other branches in Delhi, claimed the institute was making the inmates write letters and complaints making similar allegations of sexual assaults against their family members.
The committee, comprising Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal and advocates Nandita Rao and Ajay Verma, said the letters and complaints were being used to pressure the family members from initiating any action against the ashram or Dixit.
The committee members also told the court that FIRs were being lodged against family members on the complaints and letters by inmates of the ashram.
The bench said “prima facie there appears to be substance in the submission of the committee” that the ashram and Dixit may be utilising the complaints to make similar allegations against the family members as a “shield” to keep the inmates on the premises.
The court was also of the prima facie view that the complaints and letters were “motivated” and meant to “dissuade” the family members from pursuing any PIL or criminal case, and to obstruct proceedings in ongoing matters.
“Do not resort to these tactics to browbeat parents. If we find that any of these women are minors, then we will ask CBI to lodge kidnapping cases against you,” the bench warned the ashram.
The court said while it would not obstruct or interfere in any legitimate, honest or genuine spiritual work, it “will not countenance any fraudulent or illegal activity”.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on January 17.
During the hearing, the bench said it was aware that the entire organisation was run and managed by Dixit, and arguments to the contrary by the ashram’s lawyer are “falsified” by information on the website as well as YouTube videos.
It warned the ashram’s lawyer that criminal contempt action can be initiated against him for his conduct and changing stances.
The court had on December 22, 2017 directed the CBI to trace Dixit who was ordered to be present before the bench today.
The CBI was asked to investigate the alleged illegal confinement of girls and women at the ashram after the court appointed committee said the inmates there were kept in “animal-like” conditions behind metal doors in a “fortress-like” building surrounded by barbed wire fence.
The court had directed the agency to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) forthwith to take charge of all records and documents pertaining to the case.
At the first hearing of the matter, the court had said the situation at the ashram — Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya –at Rohini in north Delhi was “similar” to the one run in Haryana’s Sirsa, without making any direct reference to Gurmeet Ram Rahim or the Dera Sacha Sauda sect led by him.