The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to self-styled godman Nithyananda and the state government after a Bengaluru-based couple filed a petition accusing the religious leader of detaining two of their daughters at his ashram near Ahmedabad, PTI reported. A division bench of Justices SR Brahmbhatt and VP Patel also issued notices to the director general of police, the child welfare committee’s chairperson, and the ashram coordinator.
In a habeas corpus petition, Janardana Sharma and his wife said they had admitted their four daughters to an educational institution run by Nithyananda in Bengaluru in 2013 when they were between seven years and 15 years. The girls were recently shifted to the Yogini Sarvagya Peetham in Hirapur village, almost 50 km from Ahmedabad, without their knowledge, the Sharmas claimed. When they visited the institution to meet their daughters, they were reportedly not allowed inside.
The couple said they managed to rescue their two youngest daughters with the help of the police but the other two refused to come with them. The two girls who were rescued had been kept in illegal confinement for more than two weeks, according to the petition.
The couple urged the judges to direct the police and the institution to produce their daughters before court and hand them over. The girls were being kept in “illegal confinement”, they added.
Earlier in the day, the police charged Nithyananda with kidnapping, illegal confinement, and using children to raise money from followers for the ashram. The police booked the religious preacher after recording the statements of four children rescued from a flat and the ashram. Nithyananda is reportedly abroad at the moment.
Two of Nithyananda’s disciples, identified as Pranpriyanand and Riddhi Kiran, have been arrested. They used to manage the ashram in Hirapur. This is not the first time Nithyananda has been accused of committing a crime. In June 2018, a court in Karnataka had framed charges against him in a rape case.