Despite all the hullaballoo around the committee to study crimes against women and children in the state, its interim report has not reviewed the Raghaveshwara Bharati case, which is one of the most high profile cases in the last two years.
Congress MLA VS Ugrappa who heads the committee, says they had no option but to leave out that particular case in its interim report submitted on Wednesday because the committee itself was formed on shaky ground when it was set up in 2014.
Raghaveshwara Bharati, the head of the Ramachandrapura Mutt has been at the centre of controversy after Premalatha, a Ramakatha singer at the Mutt alleged that she had been raped on multiple occasions by the seer. After she filed a complaint with the police, she had also alleged the supporters of the seer had intimidated her.
Earlier this year, a 25-year-old woman, who studied in an institution run by the Mutt also alleged that she too had been raped several times by the seer and threatened with dire consequences if she revealed it to anyone. Both cases are being investigated by the CID.
Raghaveshwara Bharati heads one of the most powerful Mutts in the state. The Mutt enjoys the support of a particular Brahmin sub-sect, whose members form a large section of the bureaucracy and police in Karnataka.
For its interim report, the committee studied 10 cases. Ugrappa says he has not studied the cases against the seer because of technical reasons.
“Those incidences took place in a mutt. If the mutt officials do not allow the members to study the premises and in turn asks them ‘under what provision of law we are reviewing the case’, then this committee doesn’t have an answer, as it has not been formed under any provision of law” he said.
A committee member, who knows many devotees of the mutt, said that even if the committee had powers the seer’s devotees would definitely object to the committee from entering the premises.
“It needs some time. After receiving the complaints from the victims, I, in the presence of the victim, have directed the authorities concerned to scan the location, seize the materials and record the victim’s statement, which was done.” Ugrappa said.
However, Ugrappa, whose committee studied nine districts including Bengaluru (urban), where one of victim is from, is unsure of whether this committee would ever review the case.
“Government has taken a firm stand to investigate the case in accordance to law and punish the guilty. But unfortunately there are lacuna in the case,” he claimed.
“For instance, the second victim delayed in filing the complaint. According to her, she was raped in 2006 in the mutt while she was a student. She went on to marry someone while still being a devotee of the seer. He had again raped her in Bengaluru 2012. But she filed the case after three years. There might not be enough evidence material. ”he said.
Asked how this mattered when according to Indian law, the rape victim’s statement alone is enough to file a chargesheet, the committee member said: “There is a high probability that the case might lash back at the victim if we pressurise on them. There will be questions like ‘why the victim kept quiet for so long?’ being asked. So there is no point rushing. We should let the CID do their investigation.”
However, considering the delay in the progress of investigation, there have been a lot of doubts regarding the sincerity in the probe itself.
In September 2014, head of Janawadi Mahila Sanghatane, Vimala who helped the 25-year-old woman lodge the rape complaint in 2014 said, “We think there is an inordinate delay in the case. In the first complaint, the police waited nine months to carry out the mahajar (inventory). We have doubts about the sincerity of the probe.”