Former Union minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand, accused of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old law student at his ashram, was arrested Friday, four days after the woman recorded her statement before a magistrate in Shahjahanpur.
Chinmayanand was produced before a local court, which sent him to 14 days judicial custody. The arrest comes days before an Uttar Pradesh Police special investigation team (SIT) was to submit a progress report to the Allahabad High Court, which is monitoring the case, on September 23.
According to SIT chief Naveen Arora, Chinmayanand, during questioning, said: “I am ashamed of my act and do not want to give further testimony.”
The SIT also arrested three others, Sanjay Singh, Vikram alias Durgesh and Sachin alias Sonu Sengar, for allegedly trying to extort Rs 5 crore from Chinmayanand by sending him threatening messages.
“They were also produced before the same court, which sent them to judicial custody, said Shahjahanpur government counsel Lal Sahab Singh.
Based on an FIR by Chinmayanand’s lawyer, the SIT is also probing the role of the law student in the extortion case.
“Chinmayanand (72) was today produced before a court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Omvir Singh, and sent to 14-days judicial custody. The agency did not seek Chinmayanand’s police custody,” said Singh. Chinmayanand was sent to the Shahjahanpur district jail.
He has been booked under IPC Section 376-C (sexual intercourse by a person in authority), 354-D (stalking), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 506 (criminal intimidation), said Singh.
After the arrests, the woman’s younger brother said, “We are not satisfied with the SIT investigation because agency invoked 376-C instead of 376 (rape) against Chinmayanand…the SIT is probing the role of my sister in a false case of extortion. The extortion case was lodged to weaken our case.”
The SIT, formed by the UP government on the direction of the Supreme Court, earlier sent video clips related to the case to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) for examination. The clips were provided to the SIT on pen drives. The purported clips show Chinmayanand getting a massage from the woman and allegedly making objectionable remarks about her.
“The SIT arrested Chinmayanand on the basis of circumstantial evidence and his presence in the video clips. When he was shown the video clips of him getting a body massage, Chinmayanand confessed it was a video of him. He also admitted to using objectionable words while talking to the woman,” said an SIT officer, adding that no other victim of sexual assault had come forward to file a complaint.
Asked whether Chinmayanand admitted to the allegation of rape, Arora said, “He directly did not admit it but there is evidence which leads to it.”
Incidentally, Chinmayanand was admitted to Shahjahanpur hospital Wednesday after complaining of uneasiness and chest pain. He returned to his ashram from hospital Thursday evening. The SIT claimed that before arresting him, they consulted doctors, who told police that Chinmayanand’s condition is stable.
Chinmayanand’s lawyer Om Singh said, “Chinmayanand returned to ashram yesterday evening after doctors advised him for angiography in a hospital in Lucknow. We will move court against his arrest.”
SIT sources said they had sent Chinmayanand’s cellphone to the FSL after he allegedly admitted to having deleted some data. The FSL has been asked to retrieve the deleted data.
The SIT is also preparing a report to the government on the law student’s college administration during the admission process.
Meanwhile, SIT sources said Sanjay Singh, Vikram and Sachin Sengar, too, confessed to their being involved in the extortion case. Om Singh had lodged an FIR against unidentified persons for allegedly sending threatening messages to Chinmayanand’s cellphone and demanding Rs 5 crore. The caller had threatened to malign Chinmayanand’s image in society if the demands were not met and claimed to have a video which he would circulate on social media.
A case was lodged under IPC Section 387 (extortion), 507 (criminal intimidation) and under the IT Act.
In one video clip provided to the SIT, the law student and three young men are seen speaking about the Rs 5-crore extortion call made to Chinmayanand. The video was shot from inside a car.
“During investigation, we found all the accused (in the extortion case) were together since September 17 and made several calls to each other. During analysis of cellphones, we found the woman spoke to Sanjay over phone 4,200 times since January this year. She also spoke to Chinmayanand over 200 times during the same period,” said an SIT officer.
“During questioning, the arrested persons confessed their involvement in the crime and admitted to sending the extortion message. They also admitted that they are in the video. The role of the woman is still being probed,” said Arora, adding that they have no evidence against any other person including woman’s father.