High Court dismisses pontiff's plea to quash rape case

High Court dismisses pontiff's plea to quash rape case

The High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition by Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swami, the pontiff of Ramachandrapura Math, who had sought the quashing of a rape case filed against him based on a woman devotee’s complaint. 

Justice K M Phaneendra also vacated the interim stay given earlier, as per which the police were directed not to arrest the seer in the rape case. 

The court, while dismissing the petition, upheld the contention of the prosecution and the complainant that the swami’s statement had not been recorded with regard to the allegations against him. 

The court observed that given the serious nature of the offence alleged in the complaint, it was not desirable to quash the proceedings. 

On the seer’s apprehensions about his possible arrest, the court observed that the police had been empowered to investigate the case and file a final report. 

Judicial process

“The investigation is the prerogative of the investigating officer (IO). The arrest is not mandatory; it is a judicial process and the accused can be interrogated without being arrested, but the same is based on the discretion of the IO. Such discretion may be exercised by the IO based on the circumstances,” the court observed. Earlier during the hearing, the prosecution told the court that the complainant had given a letter of her complaint to a court in Honnavar following her arrest after the Math made a complaint that she had threatened music performers at an event organised by it. 

Safe custody

But the magistrate, instead of looking into the letter, put it in a sealed cover and directed that it be put in safe custody. 

Expressing surprise, Justice Phaneendra said, “The date, when the accused was produced before the magistrate particularly on August 27, 2014, it is mentioned in the order sheet that the accused has filed a complaint and the judge noted that and said that it should be kept in custody. There is no reason for the magistrate to keep the complaint in the said custody, because it is not a statement of complainant in her care. It is the complaint made against the petitioner by the victim.” 

“The magistrate should have taken cognizance of the offence by examining the complaint, and after providing opportunity to the complainant, must pass appropriate order.” 

“If the magistrate is of the opinion that an investigation is required by the police, she should have referred it under Section 156 (3) of the CrPC and acted upon it later on. But she adopted a strange procedure, which is unknown to the jurisprudence.” 

The court not only directed the Honnavar magistrate to transfer the victim’s complaint to the IO but also cautioned her to take care and follow the due procedure in future while dealing with such cases. 

After dismissal 

After the seer’s petition was dismissed, his counsel filed an application seeking that the interim order not to arrest the pontiff be extended for 10 more days so that he can appeal against the order. 

However, Additional Advocate General A S Ponnanna and counsel for the complainant submitted that the court could not pass any such order once the matter had been disposed of. Justice Phaneendra ruled that the court’s interference was not necessary in the matter and dismissed it. 

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