The POCSO cases against Murugharajendra Bruhan Matha head pontiff Shivamurthy Sharanaru took several twists and turns on Monday, 30 November, after the police arrested him and put the seer in prison in one of the cases. Soon after the arrest, the High Court of Karnataka ordered his release.
The police arrested him after the Second Additional Sessions Court in Chitradurga issued a non-bailable warrant against the accused, who was released on bail four days ago. After his release, on 16 November, the prosecution moved the sessions court pointing out that he had been granted bail in only one POCSO case, and another one was still pending.
The court issued the non-bailable warrant due to alleged procedural lapses on the part of the jail authorities in executing the bail formalities in the other case.
After his release from jail, Sharanaru was staying at the Viraktha Matha in Davangere, from where he was arrested. He was later presented before the Second Additional Sessions Court in Chitradurga. Judge BK Komala remanded the seer in judicial custody till 2 December, and he was taken to the Chitradurga district prison.
“Since a non-bailable warrant was issued against the seer, we produced him before the judge on Monday around 4.15 pm, and the court remanded him in judicial custody till 2 December,” Superintendent of Police in Chitradurga Dharmender Kumar Meena told South First before the high court’s intervention.
Legal team moved high court
Soon after Sharanaru’s arrest on Monday, his legal team approached the high court. After hearing the petition, a single bench stayed the non-bailable warrant and ordered the seer’s immediate release.
The bench pointed out that it had, as part of the earlier bail conditions, prohibited Sharanaru from entering the Chitradurga district and directed him to attend the hearing in the lower court via video conferencing.
The judge asked the high court registrar to immediately email a copy of its latest order to the Chitradurga district jail authorities.
The judge also said that while granting bail the trial courts should follow the orders of the high court single benches in individual cases.
The bench noted that the seer was taken to Chitradurga despite it banning him from entering the district. The action taken by the special public prosecutor and the order passed by the trial court at Chitradurga was contrary to the high court’s order.
Sharanaru is likely to be released on Tuesday, 21 November.
On Friday, the prosecution filed a petition objecting to the seer’s release before the Chitradurga District Sessions Court.
The prosecution pointed out that he was allowed to go on bail despite one POCSO case still pending in the court. Based on the prosecution’s petition, the court issued the non-bailable warrant on Monday.
Special Public Prosecutor GR Jagadeesh said earlier in the day that the non-bailable warrant was issued since there were lapses on the part of jail authorities in executing the bail formalities considering the second POCSO case registered against the seer.
“The jail authorities, on the orders of the high court, executed bail formalities in the first POCSO case, but they did not follow due procedures in the second POCSO case,” he told South First.
Jagadeesh explained that the seer was arrested in the first POCSO case and was in judicial custody when the second case was registered against him. The seer’s counsel had filed a bail application for the second POCSO case, but the sessions court rejected the plea.
The defence counsel then approached the high court and filed the bail application for the first case. However, an application was not moved for bail in the second POCSO case.
The high court granted bail to Sharanaru in the first case on 8 November, and he was released from jail on 16 November.
The seer had been staying at the Viraktha Math since one of the bail conditions prohibited him from entering the Chitradurga district till the completion of the probe.
He was granted conditional bail on a personal bond of ₹2 lakh and two sureties for equal amounts. He was warned against tampering with evidence or trying to influence any witnesses.
The cases against the seer
The first complaint against the pontiff and four others was filed by the Odanadi Seva Samsthe, a Mysuru-based NGO. It accused them of sexually harassing minor girls studying at the Matha-run school and staying in its hostel on the Murugha Matha premises in Chitradurga.
The Nazarabad police in Mysuru registered the case under POCSO and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Acts. The case was later transferred to the Chitradurga Rural police station.
The second case under POCSO was registered after the mother of two minor girls complained that her daughters and two other minor girls were sexually assaulted by the seer in 2019 and 2022.
The complainant also accused junior pontiff Basavaditya and others, including Paramashivaiah, Gangadhar, Mahalinga, and Karibasappa, as parties involved in the case.
Paramashivaiah’s name was later dropped from the charge sheet filed in the second case.