Expressing its shock over the condition of woman inmates at a Rohini-based ashram founded by self-styled godman Virendra Dev Dixit who is a proclaimed offender in a sexual exploitation case, the High Court Tuesday said its management should be taken over by the Delhi government’s health department.
While directing Adhyatmik Vidhyalaya to show cause why it should not direct takeover of the institution by the government, the division bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla directed police to ensure that the inmates housed at the facility are not taken out and removed to any other facility. The direction was passed after the court was told that Adhyatmik Vidhyalaya has properties in UP and Haryana as well.
“What kind of an ashram is this? There is obviously something going on over there. Where is (Dixit)? Why is he absconding? We are going to direct this government to take over this institution. You cannot run it in this condition,” said the court, after perusing the contents of the report prepared by Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Swati Maliwal and advocate Nandita Rao in 2017.
It further said, “In broad daylight, in a city like Delhi you are going on with this. We were aghast to read this. This institution will be taken over because this gentleman is absconding. We are going to attach his property.” The High Court in December 2017 had directed the CBI to investigate the alleged illegal confinement of women and girls in the ashram, after hearing a PIL by an NGO.
It took note of the report submitted by Rao and other members of an inspection team in earlier proceedings in which it was mentioned that over 100 girls were housed in “animal-like conditions with no privacy”. Rao had expressed apprehension about their health and said that several appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
The court Tuesday was hearing an application moved by a couple, whose daughter is an inmate at the ashram. The petitioners, who were represented by senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy, submitted that she is suffering from severe backache but they are unable to meet her.
The court said, “We find it difficult to accept that the inmates of the institution are in their full senses when they claim that they are at the institution out of their own free will and that they are not under any coercion or undue influence.” It further directed the DCP concerned to ensure that the petitioners are able to meet their daughter and adequate police protection is provided on their visit.
The lawyer representing the petitioners’ daughter, submitted that she and other inmates were running the institution. The court was told that 162 inmates are housed there, as per a submission made previously. The court said if she is under influence, her statement cannot be accepted.