The Delhi High Court Wednesday pulled up the police for not arresting self-styled preacher Daati Maharaj in a sexual assault case and transferred the matter to the CBI.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao allowed the complainant woman’s plea to transfer the matter to the CBI, saying the manner in which Delhi Police carried out the probe “casts a shadow on the investigation”.

The bench said that police did not arrest the accused in the case even after recording of the complainant’s statement before a magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra, appearing for the police, said arrests were not made as there were discrepancies and contradictions in the woman’s statement.

He also said that other women, who according to the complainant were also assaulted by the accused, have denied such allegations when they were questioned.

Mehra further said that Crime Branch of Delhi Police on October 1 filed a charge sheet in the trial court, which is hearing the matter, and added that it was based on the woman’s statement.

The bench, however, did not accept the contentions, saying, “Why were the accused not arrested? Once there was a 164 statement, you should have arrested him and if there were any discrepancies or contradictions in her statement, they would have been grounds for grant of bail.”

The court said that the manner in which the other women witnesses were questioned, by taking all of them together in one bus “as if for an excursion”, did not inspire confidence in the investigation.

“Let the matter be transferred to CBI. It can file a supplementary charge sheet. CBI to submit a preliminary report in three weeks (on status of probe),” the court said.

The bench was hearing two pleas, one by the complainant and another a PIL, seeking transfer of the case to the CBI.

The complainant’s plea was earlier being heard by a single judge bench of the high court, but was transferred to the division bench after the PIL was filed.

A complaint was filed against Daati Madan Lal alias Daati Maharaj on June 7 and an FIR was registered on June 11. On June 22, police questioned the accused, who has been charged with rape of a disciple at his ashrams in Delhi and Rajasthan.

The accused has claimed he was being framed in the case.

The complainant has filed the case against the preacher, his three brothers and a woman at Fatehpur Beri police station in South Delhi. The case was later transferred to the crime branch.

In her petition before the single judge, she had claimed that the accused and his associates were interrogated by the crime branch on different dates but were not arrested. It said the FIR against him has been registered for alleged heinous offences of rape, unnatural sex, molestation and common intention under the IPC.

The trial court had taken strong exception to the manner in which the probe was being conducted in the rape case, saying the investigating officer had not been able to explain the efforts made to ensure that the accused does not abscond during the investigation.

It had directed the DCP (Crime Branch) to monitor the probe and ensure a status report is filed before the court every week.

A Delhi Police team, accompanied by the woman, had visited the ashram in Pali city in Rajasthan to gather evidence but failed to find the accused there.

The Delhi Commission for Women had also demanded the arrest of the self-styled godman.