The Delhi High Court Tuesday expressed its displeasure over the management of a north Delhi-based ashram housing several women who were alleged to be living in “animal-like conditions” and said that its management should be taken over by the Delhi government.
A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi asked the ashram — Adhyatmik Vidhyalaya, Rohini — to show cause as to why it should not be taken over by the Delhi government and directed that DCP concerned to ensure that its inmates are “not taken out and removed” before the matter is heard by it again on April 21.
The bench, also comprising Justice Navin Chawla, noted that the person who set up the ashram has been charge-sheeted by the CBI and is presently absconding and observed that it was difficult to accept that the inmates were living there of their free will.
“We find it difficult to accept that the inmates of the institution are in their full senses and the claim that they are in the institution of their own free will and they are not under the coercion and undue influence,” stated that court which was hearing a plea by the parents of one of the inmates seeking to meet her.
Senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy, appearing for the petitioner, relied on a report submitted to the court in a related case to state that over 100 inmates were living in the ashram in “animal-like condition” behind metal doors and several were under the influence of drugs.
“What kind of an ashram is this? … Sheer nonsense.. something like this is happening in broad daylight in a city like Delhi. We are going to direct the government to take over the institution,” said the court.
“We are prima facie of the view that the respondent no. 6 institute should be taken over by the Health Department of the GNCTD for its management and running. We, therefore, put respondent no 6 to notice ..to show cause why it should not direct takeover of the institution by GNCTD,” the court ordered.
Lawyer Sravan Kumar, also appearing for the petitioners’ daughter, stated that the inmates themselves were running and managing the ashram.
The court directed that the present case be listed on April 21 along with another petition concerning the affairs of the ashram.
In the meantime, the court directed that the petitioners be allowed to meet their daughter and asked the DCP concerned to ensure their protection.
In December 2017, on a petition by NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment, the high court had asked the CBI to trace the founder of the ashram Virender Dev Dixit after raising doubts over the ashram’s claims that women inmates there were not illegally confined.
Earlier, the court had directed the CBI to probe the alleged 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 petitioner NGO had claimed that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined at the “spiritual university” and were not allowed to meet their parents.
Taking note, the high court had immediately 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, then gave a report detailing the “horrible” living conditions of the over 100 girls and women who were housed in “animal-like conditions with no privacy even for bathing.” PTI ADS RKS RKS
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