Bengaluru: The chief pontiff of Murugha Mutt in Karnataka’s Chitradurga, Shivamurthy Swami, 64, who is accused of sexually assaulting two minor high school girls, was remanded in police custody amid high drama.
The powerful Lingayat pontiff, who was arrested last week, was initially sent to 14-day judicial custody and lodged in Chitradurga prison, where he is said to have developed health complications. He was shifted to Chitradurga district hospital, where a cardiologist suggested he be moved to Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research in Bengaluru. A helicopter was on standby to airlift him.
When police sought permission from the Chitradurga second additional district and sessions court, Judge BK Komala refused and took the police and local authorities to task for shifting the accused from the jail to the district hospital without the court’s permission.
The court also objected to the preparations being made to airlift the pontiff to Bengaluru and asked police to produce him before the Chitradurga court immediately. The pontiff was then produced before the court in a wheelchair in the afternoon. When the judge asked him to stand in the witness box, the pontiff became emotional and broke down. The prosecution suggested that the accused can be presented through video conference “as he is unwell”, but this was turned down by the court.
Judge Komala gave a clear direction that the pontiff should not be taken anywhere during police custody, ruling out any possibility of shifting him to hospital. The police were directed to present the accused seer in the court later.