HC refuses to discharge Nithya, 5 others from rape case

HC refuses to discharge Nithya, 5 others from rape case

Self-styled godman Nithyananda

The High Court of Karnataka has dismissed the criminal revision petitions by self-styled godman Nithyananda and others in an eight-year-old rape case. 

Nithyananda, Siva Vallabhaneni, Ragini Vallabhaneni, Dhanasekar, Jamuna Rani and Gopala Sheelam Reddy had challenged a Ramanagaram court's decision to dismiss their discharge petition. They urged the high court to discharge them from the criminal proceedings, arguing that the prosecution had no concrete material to frame charges against them. 

Dismissing their pleas, the court stated in its order: "At the stage of framing of the charges, this court cannot look into the truthfulness (or) veracity of the case of the prosecution by making a detailed enquiry. But the court, after considering the materials, shall form that whether the said material will give a strong suspicion that the accused have committed the said offence or not." 

The court cited the investigation report, which stated that Nithyananda's personal assistant was instrumental in taking the woman to the self-styled godman's room on the pretext that she has to clean it. Once she entered the room, she would latch the door. Thereafter, Nithyananda would come to her, hug her and have sex with her. 

But the counsel for Nithyananda disputed that his client had sex with the victim. Even if he had, the sexual intercourse was consensual. In response, the court observed that consent obtained under any undue influence is not valid as it does not entail the free will of the victim. 

The court further noted that materials produced by the prosecution show that non-disclosure agreements (NDA) prevented disciples from disclosing the goings-on in the ashram. "Therefore, unless and until there are glaring defects in the order of the learned sessions judge, this court cannot interfere in the said order in a routine manner as the jurisdiction of a revisional court is limited," the high court said. 

The court, however, set aside the charges against Gopala Sheelam Reddy aka Nithya Bhakthananda under IPC Section 212 (harbouring an offender).