Editorial in Deccan Herald: Seer case needs speedy trial
October 3, 2015, DHNS
Long and unjustifiable delays have marked the investigations against Raghaveshwara Bharathi, pontiff of the Ramachandrapura mutt, who is facing serial rape charges levelled against him by two women. The Siddaramaiah government has been dragging its feet in the cases. The state CID has now sent material evidence produced by the victim in the second case for forensic examination. Last week, it had filed a charge sheet against him in the first case, based on the charge of a Ramakatha singer that she had been repeatedly raped by him for many years in various places. The charge was made in August last year. What stands out in both cases is that the investigations and actions on the basis of the charges have repeatedly been obstructed by the seer and his supporters in the government and the police. Crimes against women, especially rape and sexual assault charges, should get top priority in investigation and no laxity or complacence can be brooked. The law demands this and there is provision for action against the police if investigations are soft-pedalled. And yet, the investigations in the cases against the seer did not progress satisfactorily.
The history of the cases is a history of reluctance and lapses on the part of the police at every stage. In the first case, the victim, who was a follower of the seer, had found it difficult even to file her complaint and get a case registered. The victim and her husband were arrested by the police on complaints from supporters of the seer, and her daughter had to pursue the case. National Commission for Women Chairperson Lalitha Kumarmangalam had to suo motu conduct an investigation. “Even when the complainant met me, she was so scared that she had completely covered her face. There were threat messages sent to her through WhatsApp,” she said recently. Five judges recused themselves from hearing the case in the high court, giving various reasons. While the investigation was itself slow and the procedures and actions of the CID have been questionable, various legal hurdles were created to hinder the progress of the case.
There are also complaints that the victim and her relatives were put under pressure to withdraw the charges. Complaints of threats and harassment have been made; an uncle of the victim reportedly committed suicide. The seer himself had threatened the victim against complaining against him, according to her. However influential the accused is, the investigation has to be fair and impartial. Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal had to go to jail for sexual assault. Asaram Bapu is in jail on rape charges. Raghaveshwara Bharati should not be treated any leniently after such serious charges were levelled against him. The state government seems keen to shield the seer. Justice demands speedy investigations and fair trials.