Police on Monday said that they would seek the custody of the Jain monk, who was arrested for allegedly raping a 19-year-old girl on October 1, after he failed the potency test. “We had arrested the accused (Digambar sect monk Acharya Shantisagarji Maharaj) but we did not seek police remand. After he failed the potency test at New Civil hospital on Sunday, we are planning to seek his custody from court and carry out medical test,” said Inspector D P Rathod of Athwalines police station in Surat. The 49-year-old monk, who was arrested on Saturday night, is at present in judicial custody at Lajpore jail.
Meanwhile, several Jain religious leaders came out in defence of the monk, saying that the allegation of rape against him was “baseless”. They also accused the parents of the Vadodara girl of extortion and blackmailing. Jain community leaders, headed by Jayesh Shah, said that all the four sects of Jain religion — Digamber, Shwetamber, Stanakwasi and Terapanthi – jointly condemned the arrest of Shantisagarji Maharaj.
“We have spoken to several people and have come to a conclusion that a conspiracy had been hatched to extort money from the monk. We have CCTV footage of the girl coming out from the room with the Jain monk. There was no expression on her face that something wrong had happened to her,” Shah said, referring to the girl’s complaint that the monk had taken her to a room where she was allegedly raped by him.
Shah also alleged that after the monk’s charavlo (a foot long wooden stick with white threads tied around it) was auctioned for Rs 2.99 crore on September 24, the girl’s parents had demanded 40 per cent of the auction money from the monk. “The acharya refused to give them the money saying that the auction money goes directly to the trust. The girl’s parents then blackmailed him and later lodged a police complaint on October 13 accusing him of raping their daughter,” Shah alleged.
“Police should probe those involved in the conspiracy. If our priest is found innocent, then strict legal actions should be taken against the parents of the victim,” he added.