A seer of a Karnataka-based Lingayat seminary, who has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting minor girls, was sent to judicial custody till September 14 by a Chitradurga district sessions court on Monday, ANI reported.

Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the chief pontiff of the Jagadguru Murugarajendra Vidyapeetha Mutt in Chitradurga city, was booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act on August 27 after two school girls alleged that the seer sexually abused them for years during their stay at the seminary hostel.

He was arrested on September 1 and was remanded to police custody for five days, which ends on Monday.

On September 2, Sharanaru was also charged under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act after it was found that one of the complainants is a Dalit.

In their complaints, the girls had told the police that Sharanaru would call them to his chambers on some pretext and sexually assault them. They alleged the seer had been assaulting one of them for the past three-and-a-half years and the other for the past one-and-a-half years.

The matter had come to light after the girls fled the hostel and approached a non-governmental organisation in Mysuru on August 26.

Besides the seer, the complainants have also named Rashmi, a warden of the seminary’s residential wing, Basavaditya, a junior priest at the mutt, lawyer Gangadharayya and a man identified as Paramashivayya in the first information report.

Sharanaru, however, claimed that the charges against him are part of a big conspiracy.

In a purported audio clip of him, the seer reportedly said that he was ready for conciliation or a trial. He also said he suspects that some adversaries from inside the mutt had conspired against him.

“Some people tend to believe that roll call and blackmail are the methods to gain power,” the seer had said. “Time will decide everything. Even great personalities like Gandhi and Basavanna have faced serious challenges.”

About 20 seers and another group of citizens from different mutts have expressed their support to Sharanaru.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has also dismissed the allegations against the seer, describing them as a conspiracy.