BENGALURU: A sessions court on Thursday dismissed all charges against Raghaveshwara Bharathi, pontiff of the Ramachandrapura Mutt, in a sensational rape case.
Judge G B Mudigoudar said neither the call records nor DNA samples derived from cloth stains had provided clinching evidence.
A 50-year-old singer, associated with the mutt in Shivamogga district, had accused Raghaveshwara of raping her 167 times between 2011 and 2014.
The judge noted that the singer’s statements, during the hearing and interrogation, had been contradictory. With no proof of rape, this is not a fit case for trial, he ruled. The verdict is likely to be challenged in the High Court. The woman, who sings classical and devotional music, had alleged she was sexually abused from October 2011 to June 2014 as she travelled with the pontiff for Ramakatha performances. He had mesmerised her in the name of god Rama, she had said.
The chargesheet said the seer, who heads a Shaivaite mutt, had raped the singer each time he called her to his room on the pretext of listening to a Ramakatha performance. He had taken her to places in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and West Bengal for religious events.
She had also alleged Raghaveshwara had threatened her and kept her under his control. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had submitted a chargesheet running into 1,341 pages after the singer’s daughter filed a complaint with the Banashankari police on August 26, 2014. A Forensic Science Laboratory report had confirmed the rape, according to the police.
In a counter-complaint, the pontiff had accused the singer and her husband of blackmailing him for `3 crore. The couple had been arrested and questioned in that connection.
Raghaveshwara did not appear for three of the 13 medical tests required for the investigation. The CID had filed an application seeking cancellation of the anticipatory bail granted to him, but the court had dismissed the plea. The singer had filed an application before the High Court, seeking a change of the sessions judge, saying he had made remarks favouring the accused.
The High Court had dismissed her plea on the grounds that the Special Public Prosecutor appointed for the case had not sought such a change.
In September 2014, soon after the scandal broke, the singer’s brother-in-law committed suicide. He was reportedly under pressure from the mutt to get her to settle the case out of court. He locked himself up in a room and shot himself with a licensed revolver, police said.
About the Seer
Formerly known as Harish Sharma, Shreemad Jagadguru Shankaracharya Shree Shree Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji, 40, took up the path of renunciation and became the Pontiff of Shree Ramachandrapura Mutt on April 15, 1994.
The mutt, headquartered in Shivamogga district, has an administrative office in Bengaluru.
TIMELINE OF CASE
Aug 26, 2014: Complaint of sexual abuse filed by singer’s daughter against Raghaveshwara Bharathi
Sept 1, 2014: Complainant’s uncle Shyamprasad Shastri commits suicide at his residence in Puttur taluk. He is brother of Divakar Shastri, whose daughter filed case against the seer.
Oct 9, 2014: HC allows CID to interrogate seer, rejecting his application challenging FIR registered against him.
Sept 30, 2015: City civil and sessions court grants anticipatory bail to Raghaveshwara Bharathi over second rape case registered against him
Feb 16, 2015: The 51st Additional Sessions Court dismisses CID plea seeking cancellation of anticipatory bail to seer.
March 10, 2016: HC dismisses plea seeking change of a sessions court judge conducting the proceedings against seer