SC orders SIT to probe sexual harassment claims against Chinmayanand

SC orders SIT to probe sexual harassment claims against Chinmayanand

Swami Chinmayanand.

New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the sexual harassment allegations made by a female LLM student against Swami Chinmayanand, who runs the college. It also asked the Allahabad High Court to monitor the matter. A bench headed by Justice R. Banumathi, after interacting with the girl who had gone missing after making the allegations before being traced to Rajasthan, said the girl has expressed grievances and her parents have expressed apprehensions. "Though we are not forming an opinion on it, but a police officer of Inspector General level should enquire into these grievances," it said. Additional Solicitor General Vikramjeet Banerjee, appearing for the UP government, said that they were submitting cross-FIRs in the matter. The court replied that the special team constituted will look into both these FIRs. "We are requesting the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to constitute a bench to monitor the investigation. Since the father of the girl has expressed apprehension (regarding their safety), we direct the Chief Secretary to direct the Superintendent of Police concerned to provide police protection to the family," the court said. The apex court ordered that the SIT will take note of both the FIRs and proceed in accordance with the law -- the first FIR was lodged by the girl's father while the other was filed against the girl, charging her with extortion. The apex court emphasized that it is not expressing any opinion on the correctness of the charges or otherwise. "We won't monitor anything here anymore. The court is retaining the matter only for the limited purpose, which is to see her education is continued and not disrupted at any stage. We aren't going to pass any further direction on this suo motu matter," said the court scheduling further hearing on the matter on Wednesday. The lawyers, who had filed the petition regarding the safety of the girl insisted on recording her statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which entails that any metropolitan magistrate or judicial magistrate may, whether or not he has jurisdiction in the case, record any confession or statement made to him in the course of an investigation under this chapter or under any other law for the time being in force. However, the court declined to pass any order on this submission. The UP government counsel informed the court that Delhi Police cannot continue to give protection to the family members in the capital for an unlimited period, therefore, the court should define a time period. The court agreed to decide on this in the next hearing. Emphasizing on maintaining the continuity of the girl's education, the apex court directed the UP government to transfer the girl to a different college in the state so ensure continuity in her LL.M course. The girl had expressed unwillingness to continue her studies at the institute. She also asked the court to transfer her younger brother, who is also at the same institute. Both siblings want to pursue studies at a different college. The apex court directed the UP government make these arrangements as soon as possible. The Supreme Court, had on last Thursday, decided to take up the case after lawyers raised concerns that it could turn into another Unnao case where powerful Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar -- expelled only recently from the party -- is accused of raping a minor girl from his village in 2017 and conspiring to murder her in a recent car crash. Chinmayanand, 72, runs an ashram in Shahjahanpur and five colleges in the town. He also runs ashrams in Haridwar and Rishikesh. After the apex court order, it is likely that the SIT will probe the college, the individuals named in the complaints, and then ascertain the correctness of the allegations.

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