Swami Nithyananda booked, two disciples held for ‘kidnapping’ kids


PTI, Nov 21, 2019, 9:33 AM IST

Bidadi/ Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday issued notices to self-styled godman Swami Nithyananda and the state government on a plea filed by a man seeking custody of his two daughters “detained” at an ashram run here by the controversial guru.

A division bench of justices S R Brahmbhatt and V P Patel issued notices to the respondents, including the state government, DGP, police officers concerned, child welfare committee chairman as well as Nithyananda and Maa Pranpriya, the co-ordinator of Ahmedabad-based ashram.

The petitioner, Janardhana Sharma, alleged that officials of the ashram — Yogini Sarvagyapeetham — were not allowing him and his wife to meet their two daughters staying there.

Sharma said the police recently managed to rescue their two other daughters, both minors, lodged in the same ashram.

While police rescued his minor daughters, his two elder daughters — Lopamudra (21) and Nandhitha Sharma (18) — were still under “detention” at the ashram and not being allowed to meet their parents, Sharma has said in his “habeas corpus” petition.

A habeas corpus plea is a petition which is filed to ensure a person under arrest is brought before a court which will determine whether the detention is legal.

The petitioner has requested the high court to direct police and other authorities to produce their elder daughters, who he alleged are being kept under “illegal confinement”, before the court and hand them over to their parents.

Apart from seeking their custody, the petitioner has also sought the HC’s direction for an inquiry regarding all other minors kept at the ashram and appropriate action against the swami and his disciples, if required.

The petitioner told the court that he had admitted his four daughters, then aged seven to 15 years, to an educational institution run by Nithyananda in Bengaluru in 2013.

When they learnt that their daughters were this year shifted to Yogini Sarvagyapeetham, situated on the premises of Delhi Public School in Ahmedabad, they tried to meet them.

The Yogini Sarvagya Peetham is a branch of Nithyananda Dhyanpeetham, another institute run by the controversial godman.

However, officials of the ashram refused to let them meet their daughters, the petitioner alleged.

With help from police, the parents visited the ashram and managed to bring back their minor daughters, but their elder daughters refused to accompany them, according to the petition.

The couple alleged that their two younger daughters rescued by police were kidnapped and kept in illegal confinement for more than two weeks and were deprived of sleep.

The parents lodged a complaint in this connection, following which an FIR was registered.

In a related development, the city police on Wednesday booked Nithyananda and arrested two co-ordinators of the Yogini Sarvagyapeetham for allegedly kidnapping children and involving them in child labour to promote activities of the ashram.

The two co-ordinators of the Ahmedabad institution, Prernateerth and Priyatatva, were arrested under IPC sections pertaining to kidnapping, wrongful confinement and voluntarily causing hurt, among others, and also section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.

Nithyananda has also been booked on same charges and police were investigating the matter further to collect evidence against him, officials said.

In June last year, a Karnataka court had framed charges against Nithyananda in a rape case.

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