A prominent Lingayat seer in Karnataka arrested for sexual abuse was on Friday sent to four days of police custody.
Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the chief pontiff of Murugha Math, was arrested on Thursday night for the sexual abuse of two minor girls. He was produced in court on Friday, which sent him to police custody till September 5.
Following his arrest, 64-year-old Sharanaru was sent to jail in the early hours of Friday where he developed health complications. He was taken to the district hospital where medical tests were conducted. The medical team which examined him was contemplating to shift him to Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research in Bengaluru for treatment, sources said.
Sharanaru has been booked under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for allegedly sexually abusing two high school girls, studying in a school run by the Math and staying in hostel also belonging to it.
Sharanaru earlier claimed that the case against him is a conspiracy and said that he would come out clean. He claimed that the case was part of a long-drawn conspiracy against him. He indicated an inside job and vowed to come out clean. The seer also said he was law-abiding and would cooperate with the investigation.
Sharanaru's math is one of the most prominent and influential Lingayat maths in Karnataka. He was questioned by police for several hours on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the police have been given a free hand to investigate the sexual abuse case in accordance with law. He did not wish to comment on allegations regarding the "delay" in the arrest of the seer.
"There is no need to respond to all these talk. I have already said that everything will happen in accordance with law. It is not right to comment on the case at the present situation," Bommai said in the coastal city of Mangaluru in response to a question on delay in the seer's arrest.
Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly Siddaramaiah sought an impartial probe by the police, based on the complaint lodged by victim-girls, in connection with the case. Becoming the first senior leader from the opposition Congress to comment on the case, he said the allegations against the seer were "serious" in nature.
"The allegations against Chitradurga Muruga Mutt Swamiji is (are) serious. The police should carry out (an) impartial investigation based on the complaint filed by the girls and reveal the truth," Siddaramaiah tweeted.
The Mysuru city police on Saturday filed an FIR against the seer under the POCSO Act and certain sections of the Indian Penal Code for the alleged sexual abuse. The FIR was registered against a total of five people, including the warden of the monastery's hostel, based on the complaint by an officer of the District Child Protection Unit.
Two girls had approached a non-governmental organisation in Mysuru and narrated the alleged abuse following which it approached the authorities and the case was registered by the police. The case was subsequently shifted to Chitradurga. Murugha Math Advisory Committee member N B Vishwanath had earlier said the charges against the pontiff were "far from the truth".
Vishwanath had also alleged that the math's administrative officer S K Basavarajan, a former MLA, was behind the charge. A case of sexual harassment and kidnapping has been registered against Basavarajan in Chitradurga on a complaint by a woman, who is said to be a staff at the seminary.
(With PTI inputs)