BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand, accused of rape by a law student, was on Friday arrested and sent to 14 days’ judicial custody even as the woman claimed the police are trying to weaken the case against him.
The special investigation team (SIT) probing the case arrested three other men – all charged with trying to extort money from the former Union minister.
While Uttar Pradesh police chief O P Singh said Chinmayanand was arrested in connection with rape, a press note issued by the SIT probing the case mentioned a lesser charge.
Instead of section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, the statement listed section 376C related to “sexual intercourse by person in authority”.
The section is usually applied in cases where a person abuses his position to induce a woman under his charge to have sex with him. The student studied at a college run by the 72-year-old leader’s ashram.
If proved, a rape charge can lead to punishment of up to life imprisonment. Someone convicted under section 376C can be jailed for between five and 10 years.
Hours after the arrest, the student indicated that she is not satisfied with the charges under which Chinmayanand was arrested.
“It is an attempt to weaken the case against him,” she told reporters. Police said Chinmayanand was shown videos recording the student massaging him.
He accepted this had taken place and said he is sorry, according to SIT head Inspector General Naveen Arora.
Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police O P Singh said, “Swami Chinmayanand was arrested in a case of rape.”
"Swami Chinmayanand was arrested this morning from his ashram. The SIT team arrested him and conducted a medical examination. He was produced in court and sent to jail," Singh said.
According to Senior Prosecution Officer Kuldeep Singh, Chinmayanand has also been booked for stalking, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.
The student has alleged she was raped and “physically exploited” by Chinmayanand for a year.
She first mentioned harassment by Chinmayanand in a video clip uploaded on social media last month. On Monday, she recorded her statement before a magistrate.
"There was no delay as the SIT was minutely investigating the case. When the statement of the girl was recorded, she gave some video clippings. All the video clippings of the girl, and the videos related to extortion were sent for forensic examination. And after this only Swami Chinmayanand and three other persons were arrested," the DGP said.
The woman had submitted a pen drive containing 43 video clips to support her allegations.
Chinmayanand's counsel Pooja Singh said the SIT took signatures of his relatives on the arrest memo but no arrest-related documents were given to them.
Ahead of the arrest, security personnel were deployed in large numbers at Mumukshu ashram where members of the SIT reached in a convoy of over a dozen vehicles.
As Chinmayanand was taken for a medical check-up, patients were stopped from entering the government hospital.
Teams led by senior police officials were deployed on the court premises and at the hospital.
The case is being investigated by an SIT formed by the Uttar Pradesh police on the directions of the Supreme Court. Inspector General Arora said the video clipping of a massage was also shown to Chinmayanand.
"When you have come to know everything, I have nothing to say. I accept my crime and I am very sorry for this act," the BJP leader said, according to the SIT chief.
The SIT has also registered a case against Sanjay Singh, Sachin Sengar, Vikram alias Durgesh and an unnamed person (Ms A) under sections that relate to extortion, criminal evidence, and causing the disappearance of evidence.
"The SIT obtained digital mobile call detail records and footage from toll tax plazas and joined all the possible sequences to arrive at the conclusion,” Arora said, referring to the period during which the woman had remained missing after uploading a video clip implicating Chinmayanand. .
“We came to know that the girl went from Shahjahanpur to Bareilly, then to Shimla and then to Delhi. After this, the girl was traced to Dausa (Rajasthan)."
"From January 1, 2019, the girl spoke to Sanjay for almost 4,200 times, and she spoke to Chinmayanand nearly 200 times. Apart from this, the exchange of messages between the girl and Sanjay was also examined," he said.
"The probe is not complete yet, and it will continue. We have 90 days time. We do not want to leave any evidence in this case, and regular investigation of the case will continue."
Chinmayanand was admitted to the medical college here on Wednesday and later referred to King George's Medical University (KGMU) in Lucknow.
But he chose to return to his residence on Thursday and get Ayurvedic treatment there, according to his counsel Om Singh.
The student had earlier threatened self-immolation if the police do not arrest him.
The SIT has questioned several witnesses, including the principals of the two colleges where the woman studied in recent years.
They also sought the records relating to the appointment of the woman’s mother at one of the Chinmayanand-run colleges.