A month after she accused former Union minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand of sexual assault, the Uttar Pradesh police Wednesday arrested the Shahjahanpur law student on charges of extortion. She was arrested in the morning in a case filed by Chinmayanand’s lawyer and sent to 14 days judicial custody.
Her father, meanwhile, said police had no evidence against her and were trying to “save” Chinmayanand.
While Chinmayanand was arrested by the SIT on September 20, his lawyer Om Singh had lodged an FIR against unidentified persons for allegedly sending threatening messages to Chinmayanand’s cellphone and demanding Rs 5 crore. The FIR was registered a day after she went missing after uploading a video on Facebook accusing Chinmayanand of sexual assault.
In it, Singh alleged the caller had threatened to malign Chinmayanand’s image with a video if the demands were not met. Singh also claimed he had a video of the law student and three young men speaking about the extortion call. Police earlier arrested Sanjay Singh, Vikram alias Durgesh and Sachin alias Sonu Sengar in the extortion case.
The SIT arrested the woman from her residence in Shahjahanpur, a day after she filed for anticipatory bail. The court has directed the SIT to file its response to the plea and fixed Thursday as the next date of hearing.
Question mark on main case
The student’s testimony was key to the arrest of Chinmayanand. Her arrest puts a question mark on the sexual assault case itself. The fact that no money changed hands undermines the police case.
SIT sources, however, said they were yet to find evidence of money being paid. “We have not found any evidence that any money was exchanged between the four persons booked in the extortion case and Chinmayanand,” said an SIT officer.
The BJP, meanwhile, issued a statement that Chinmayanand has had no link with the party for several years. “Chinmayanand is not a BJP member and there is no record of his membership. He was not holding any responsibility in the party for several years,” said BJP UP state spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi.
He said he would have to check with the party’s Shahjahanpur district president about Chinmayanand’s status in the BJP. When contacted, BJP’s Shahjahanpur district president, Rakesh Mishra Anawa, said, “I will not say anything about Chinmayanand,” and directed all queries regarding Chinmayanand to BJP leaders in Lucknow.
The SIT, formed by the UP government on directions of the Supreme Court, said all legal procedures were followed before arresting the woman. Government counsel Lal Sahab Singh said: “SIT produced the woman before the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Vineet Narain Pandey, who sent her to 14 days judicial custody. The court today also rejected the woman’s bail application filed today.”
Earlier, the SIT claimed that the three men arrested had confessed to sending threat messages to Chinmayanand.
“On Wednesday, an SIT team went to her residence after obtaining an FSL report of the video clip in which she and three men are seen speaking about Rs 5 crore extortion call made to Chinmayanand,” said an SIT officer, adding that the FSL report stated there no tampering done to the video clip.
According to SIT sources, the purported video of the woman was shot by a driver, Anoop, in whose car she and three men were travelling. The SIT has seized the car. “The SIT so far has not found any evidence pointing to Anoop’s role in the case,” said SIT officer.
Meanwhile, Chinmayanand is still undergoing treatment at Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute (SGPGI) in Lucknow and doctors said his condition is stable.