The Delhi High Court on Tuesday gave CBI the go ahead for freezing the bank accounts of absconding self-styled spiritual preacher Virender Dev Dixit.
The court perused the status report filed by the CBI with regard to the steps it has taken to arrest Dixit, who is facing rape cases and has been absconding for several years, and noted the existence of certain bank accounts that were operated by him.
The court said it was “satisfied with the attempts and progress made by CBI in the matter” and asked to agency to continue with its efforts.
“CBI shall certainly be free to freeze the bank accounts by taking steps in accordance with law,” said a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula, while granting the federal agency six weeks to take further steps.
The court observed the CBI has “done the needful and are still doing the needful” in the matter and directed it to continue the search and seizure and freeze all bank accounts linked to Dixit.
The high court was hearing a 2017 petition filed by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment, represented by lawyer Sravan Kumar, alleging several minor girls and women were illegally confined at the “spiritual university” run by Dev and not allowed to meet their parents.
With respect to the plea by the parents of one of the women living in the ashram for meeting her, the court Tuesday observed the daughter was a “grown up” and did not want live with them.
On May 31, the court had directed the CBI to take steps for arresting Dixit after it was brought to its notice that he or his followers were uploading videos on at least six YouTube channels and social media handles and that a large number of them were being uploaded since March 2018.
The high court had earlier asked the CBI to trace Dixit and directed the agency to probe the accusation about illegal confinement of girls and women in the ashram where it was claimed they were kept in “animal-like” conditions behind metal doors in a “fortress” surrounded by barbed wire.
The agency has announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh to anyone who gives credible information about his whereabouts leading to his arrest, but he continues to elude the dragnet.
The high court had earlier sought the assistance of retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi over the welfare of women living in Dixit’s ashram — Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidhyalaya, Rohini and constituted a committee under her supervision to monitor its functioning.
It had also set up a committee comprising lawyers and Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal to inspect the premises of the institute.
The committee, which included lawyers Ajay Verma and Nandita Rao, had submitted a report to the court about the “horrible” conditions prevailing there. It said over 100 girls and women were living at the institution in “animal-like conditions with no privacy even for bathing.
In 2022, the court had asked the ashram to show cause as to why it should not be taken over by the Delhi government and said it was difficult to accept that the inmates were living there of their free will.
It had also said while it cannot force the women living in the ashram under “shocking” conditions to live with their parents, no institution has the licence to conduct its affairs in a manner that violates fundamental rights of the inmates.
The matter would be heard next in November.