The Karnataka Police on Monday told the High Court that religious leader Nithyananda, who has absconded from India, is on a “spiritual tour”, Live Law reported. The police’s statement was in response to an order by the Karnataka High Court on January 31, to serve notice on Nithyananda in a petition seeking cancellation of bail granted to him. This is connection with a rape case against him from 2010.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Balraj B submitted before the court that the notice had instead been served upon Kumari Archanananda, an aide of Nithyananda. Balraj is the investigating officer in the case. He told the court that Nithyananda is not available at his ashram because he is on a “spiritual tour”.

Kumari Archanananda has filed an affidavit stating that the police forced her to accept the notice after she informed them that she cannot send it to Nithyananda, as she does not know his whereabouts.

Justice John Michael Cuna criticised the police. “Is this the first time you are serving a court summons?” he asked the advocate representing the police force. “How do you say this is effecting service and complying with directions of the court? It means you have forced her [Archanananda] to come to the court. You are playing a game.”

Bajraj then apologised to the court. However, the judge said he would pass an appropriate order on the conduct of the police officer.

The plea seeking cancellation of bail was filed by Lenin Karuppan, a former disciple of Nithyananda. Opposing the plea, the counsel for the Karnataka government said Nithyananda’s presence in court is not required. He claimed that the trial has been delayed because of the non-cooperation of the petitioner himself. The counsel for the state also argued that Nithyananda has not violated any bail conditions.

Lenin’s advocate said: “The accused is hoodwinking the court. Can the prosecution remain silent when the accused is not available to face the trial? Failure to serve the court notice is no impediment in cancelling the bail.” The court then reserved its verdict on cancellation of the bail.

In January, Interpol had issued a Blue Corner Notice against Nithyananda on the request of the Gujarat government. Nithyananda is also accused of abducting and torturing children and using them to raise money for his ashram in Hirapur, almost 50 km from Ahmedabad. A Blue Corner Notice makes it mandatory for member countries to share the whereabouts of a person.

Nithyananda is believed to have fled the country in November, after which the Gujarat Police turned to the Ministry of External Affairs and investigative agencies for help. The government then cancelled Nithyananda’s passport and also rejected his application for a fresh one.

Media reports in December claimed that Nithyananda had founded an independent country called “Kailaasa” near Ecuador in Latin America. However, the Indian government said: “Setting up a website is different from setting up a nation.” The Ecuadorian government also denied that it had granted asylum to the religious leader.