POCSO, rape-accused seer set to retake reins of the Murugha Matha in Karnataka

The seer is expected to take over from interim chief Basavaprabhu, accused of misappropriating ₹24 lakh in the name of lawyer fees.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Dec 08, 2023 | 9:00 AMUpdatedDec 08, 2023 | 9:46 AM

Shivamurthy Sharanaru, the POCSO and rape accused seer. (Sourced)

Shivamurthy Sharanaru, an accused in rape and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act cases, is set to retake the reins of the Murugha Matha — in the Chitradurga district of Karnataka — as its head pontiff. Sharanaru is currently out on bail.

“Preparations are being made at the Haveri branch of Murugha Matha, where Shivamurthy Sharanaru would resume charge, since he cannot enter the Chitradurga district as per the bail condition,” sources within the Matha administration told South First.

“The overseeing committee members led by the interim pontiff Basavaprabhu Swamiji, have resigned paving the way for Shivamurthy Sharanaru to take over the Matha’s charge,” they added.

However, the development has riled Mysuru-based Odanadi Samsthe, an NGO that supported the survivors in the POCSO cases against the seer, besides providing them legal support.

The founders of the NGO, KV Stanley and ML Parashuram, said that giving administrative and financial powers to a POCSO and rape accused would hurt the trials, besides affecting the mental and emotional condition of the survivors.

“Hence I urge the Matha not to hand over the power to the seer,” Stanley told South First.

Also read: Karnataka HC stays proceedings on pontiff in Chitradurga court

Drama after bail

Sharanaru was granted conditional bail by the Karnataka High Court in the first FIR filed against him on 8 November, 14 months after his arrest. He was released from the Chitradurga district prison on 16 November.

Four days later, the Chitradurga police arrested him again based on a non-bailable warrant issued against him by the Second Additional Sessions Court in the city.

The warrant was linked to the second POCSO case that was still pending. However, on the same day, a single-judge bench of the high court stayed the non-bailable warrant and ordered the seer’s immediate release.

Sources in the Murugha Matha narrated a series of developments that took place in the Matha.

A Principal District Judge (PDJ) was put in charge of the administration of the Matha in August. However, the PDJ was transferred in November — around the same time Sharanaru was granted bail.

Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) GR Jagadeesh told South First that the PDJ’s transfer was routine. “She was one among the nine district judges transferred to different roles, and her transfer had nothing to do with the ongoing cases in the court,” he said.

Meanwhile, Stanley and Parashuram said they felt the transfer was suspicious. “This is not a coincidence. This has been done deliberately to remove her from the duties she was performing with utmost care and sincerity,” said Stanley.

“PDJ Rekha, in her three-month tenure (August to October), had brought in several reforms in the matha,” he added.

She reorganised the Matha’s administration in a democratic and transparent manner and made space for more Governing Council members, said Stanley.

She also increased the salaries of the Matha employees, he said, adding that she was instrumental in bringing in more resources and revenues, and also stopped misappropriation of funds”.

Also read: Sessions court issues NBW against Murugha Matha pontiff

Charge against Basavaprabhu

Meanwhile, Matha sources said interim chief Basavaprabhu has been accused of misappropriating ₹24 lakh. The former PDJ even issued a notice to Basavaprabhu, accusing him of misappropriating the Matha’s funds.

Basavaprabhu Swami

Basavaprabhu Swamy. (Supplied)

The notice, a copy of which is with South First, also sought an explanation from Basavaprabhu for spending ₹24 lakh, besides asking him to return the money to the Matha.

The notice also warned of legal action if he failed to return the money.

However, sources said Basavaprabhu responded to the notice, saying the money was spent on hiring lawyers to get Shivamurthy Sharanaru out on bail.

Following his explanation, he was apparently served another notice. However, the interim chief resigned from his responsibilities soon after Sharanaru was released on bail.

Also read: NCPCR seeks report on minor POCSO victim being handcuffed

More details

Odanadi Samsthe founders said that the allegedly misappropriated amount might have been misused.

“Basavaprabhu Swamiji cannot and should not shun his responsibilities when he is facing charges of misappropriation. As per the Basava Tatva, the seer should be clean,” said Stanley .

When asked if the POCSO and rape-accused seer would be violating bail conditions if he were to become the head pontiff of Murugha Matha, Special Public Prosecutor Jagadeesh said the bail conditions did not prevent him from taking charge.

“However, the accused seer becoming the chief is less likely as the former minister and the leader of the Veerashaiva Lingayat community, H Ekanthaiah, has challenged the high court order granting relief to the accused seer at the Supreme Court,” he added.