The Delhi High Court directed the CBI on Wednesday for further steps to arrest self-styled spiritual preacher Virender Dev Dixit, who is facing rape cases and has been absconding for years.
It was brought to the court’s notice that Dixit and his followers are uploading videos on at least six YouTube channels and social media handles and a large number of such videos were uploaded since March 2018.
“CBI is directed to take further steps for arresting Dixit as he is still absconding by taking all possible appropriate measures. Let the matter be called after six weeks. Let CBI file a fresh status report in the matter,” a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said.
The court was hearing a petition filed in 2017 by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment, represented by lawyer Sravan Kumar. The petitioner has alleged that several minors and women are being illegally confined at the “spiritual university” run by Dixit and the parents of the inmates are not allowed to meet them.
The court had asked the CBI to trace Dixit, the founder of the ashram, and directed the federal agency to probe the “illegal confinement” of girls and women at the ashram where they were allegedly kept in “animal-like” conditions behind metal doors in a “fortress” surrounded by barbed wire.
The court said another important aspect is that a large number of such ashrams are operating in the country and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is required to find out who is the owner of these ashrams.
It said the agency is also required to ascertain the details of the bank accounts from which funds are being released towards the payment of rent to the owners of these ashrams and the documents on the basis of which the properties have been let out to the residents.
The CBI is directed to conduct further probe in the matter, the court said.
It noted that despite best efforts, the agency has not been able to arrest Dixit.
“However, CBI can investigate further to initiate the process for letter of request … to the UK, Nepal and places from where the videos are being uploaded,” it said.
The court also noted that the organisation in question is using the word “Vishwa Vidyalaya” as it describes itself as the “Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya”.
The counsel appearing for the ashram has submitted that the subject matter is sub judice before the Supreme Court regarding the use of the word “Vishwa Vidyalaya”.
The court said the authorities concerned will also be under an obligation to find out whether the provisions of the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act are being violated or not and added that this exercise shall be conducted within four weeks.
Earlier, the CBI had told the high court that all efforts were being made to ascertain the whereabouts of Dixit. Special teams were formed to arrest him and raids were carried out at his farmhouses and ashrams, the agency had said.
The CBI, which had said there was a possibility that Dixit might have fled the country, had added that a reward of Rs 5 lakh has been announced on information regarding Dixit and his name has been sent to the fugitive cell of the agency to trace his present location.
The court had earlier sought the assistance of retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Kiran Bedi on the matter concerning the welfare of the women living in Dixit’s ashram at Rohini here.
It had also constituted a committee under Bedi’s supervision to monitor the functioning of the ashram — Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya, Rohini.
It had set up a committee, comprising lawyers and Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal, to inspect the premises of the institute.
The committee, comprising lawyers Ajay Verma and Nandita Rao, had given a report detailing the “horrible” living conditions of the more than 100 girls and women, who were housed 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 the fundamental rights of the inmates.