The Delhi High Court on Friday directed the CBI to trace the whereabouts of the founder and spiritual head of a north Delhi-based ashram, being probed by the agency for allegedly confining women and girls like “animals in a cage”.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said Virender Dev Dixit, the founder of the Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya in North Delhi’s Rohini area, to be present before it on January 4, the next date of hearing.
The bench also issued a show-cause notice to a woman staying at the ashram, asking why contempt action would not be initiated against her for assaulting the court-appointed committee when it went there to inspect the place.
The court directed the CBI to proceed in accordance with law and ensure that the truth comes out.
It asked the Delhi Police and the AAP government to extend their full cooperation and render every assistance and logistics required by the CBI’s special investigative team (SIT) which is investigating the allegations against the ashram and its founder.
The bench also asked the committee appointed by it to inspect eight other similar centres being run by Dixit in the national capital after the existence of these places was brought to the court’s attention.
It directed that the committee, comprising Delhi Commission for Women Swati Maliwal and advocates Ajay Verma and Nandita Rao, be provided protection by the police and ordered the people running the centres to cooperate and not obstruct the inspection.
The court also sought a report from the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on the age verification tests it will carry out on 41 girls “rescued” from the ashram in Rohini on Thursday.
During the hearing, the court also questioned the spirituality imparted at the ashram and the claim of its lawyer that the women and girls were there on their own free will.
“It is a strange setup where hundreds are lodged in closed confines. Where is the concept of free consent or spirit when you are not allowed to meet family or friends or wear what you want to or cannot go out when you want to?
“What kind of spirituality is it when people are kept confined as animals in cages? We do not understand it,” it said.
The bench also noted that the ashram or vidyalaya, which it claimed to be, did not appear to have any legal status as it is neither a registered society as per the law nor a trust or company.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment, which informed the court that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined at the “spiritual university” here and were not allowed to meet their parents.
Taking note of the “seriousness and the sensitivity of the matter”, the bench had asked the CBI director to forthwith constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to take charge of all the records and documents pertaining to the case.
The SIT will also investigate the FIRs lodged against the ashram and its founder as well as various allegations against them, the court earlier said.