In a relief for Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the pontiff of Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Bruhanmutt, Chitradurga, the Karnataka high court on Wednesday granted him conditional bail in the case registered under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.
The seer has been in custody since September 2, 2022.
Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar has said that the seer shall not enter the Chitradurga district till the culmination of the trial in the two cases. The court has also imposed conditions that if the seer possesses a passport, he shall surrender the same to the trial court and shall attend special court hearings through video conference.
In addition, the seer has been told to furnish a bail bond for Rs 2 lakh with two sureties for like sum.
The seer was booked for the offences punishable under IPC sections 376(2)(n), 376 (3), 376 (DA) section 5 (l) read with section 6 of the Pocso Act, based on the complaint filed by two minor girls. Initially, the FIR was registered by the Nazarabad police in Mysuru and transferred to Chitradurga.
The police subsequently filed two charge sheets in the case.
It was argued on behalf of the seer that the medical examination of the two victims had shown that there was no sexual assault as alleged as their hymen was intact.
It was also claimed that the complaint was filed on August 26, 2022, more than a month after the two victims were taken out by a couple – S K Basavarajan, former administrator of the Murugha mutt, and his wife Sowbgagya – on July 25, 2022 from a police station in Bengaluru city. The advocate for the seer argued that this demonstrates that the complaint was at the behest of the couple.
Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar observed that deciding an application for bail stands on a different pedestal than deciding a criminal case after the conclusion of the trial.
The court also noted that statements given under CrPC section 161 (before the police) and statements given under CrPC section 164 (before the magistrate) raise several doubts.
The two girls had given a statement that more than eight other girls in the hostel were also sexually abused by the seer like them and had also named those eight girls.
“The statements of those girls are available in the records. If those statements are perused none of the girls named by girls A and B have complained of being sexually abused by accused No 1. In contrast, their statements are that accused number 1 used to treat them well and teach English and Sanskrit once a week,” the court said.
“Juxtaposing the statements under Section 161 CrPC, and statements under Section 164 CrPC, the statements of other eight girls and medical report about the hymen, it can be stated that a doubt really arises in the contents of Section 161 CrPC, statements. These aspects cannot be ignored at this stage,” the court said.
(Published 08 November 2023, 23:34 IST)