The Delhi High Court has asked retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and former Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry, Kiran Bedi, to assist in a plea relating to the welfare and protection of rights of women living in an ashram run by a fugitive ‘god’ Virendra Dev Dixit in the Rohini district of the national capital.
On September 22, a divisional bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad observed that Bedi was unaware of the case being listed on said date and the Women’s Commission lawyer of Delhi (DCW) undertook to inform him. of the listing of the case on October 7, 2022. The Registrar General was also instructed to notify Bedi. “Ms. Kiran Bedi is requested to assist this court in this matter at the next court date,” the court said.
A report has been submitted by the Extra Sessions Judge, North-West Rohini Courts, who is the chairman of a committee overseeing the welfare of women living at Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya in Rohini, constituted by the High Court earlier in April. Acknowledging the report, the court ordered that a copy of it be “provided to all parties to enable them to comply with instructions/recommendations that have been made in the general interest of the Adhyatmik Vidyalaya”.
The High Court had asked Bedi on April 26 to oversee the functioning of the committee to “enforce the human rights of women and ensure that their legal rights are adequately protected.” Additional Session Judge, North West, Rohini Courts, Delhi, was appointed Chairman of the Committee, which included members of DCW, District Magistrate (North West), Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Against women) with jurisdiction over the region among others.
“The functioning of the said committee will be overseen by Mrs. Kiran Bedi, former Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry – who has very kindly consented to assume the responsibility in this capacity. It will be the obligation of the GNCTD to provide all the assistance it requires to carry out its functioning,” the court ordered in April.
The High Court had, at a previous hearing, expressed its shock at the situation prevailing in the institution. He commissioned a team to inspect the ashram premises in 2017, in which the DCW lawyer said she found no doors on the internal toilet stalls and that only one door existed for a group of toilet cubicles. Several other aspects were also noted by her in her report. She further alleged that more than 100 girls were housed in “animal-like conditions with no privacy” on the premises.
The court had, however, specified in its April order that the establishment would be free to pursue its religious and spiritual activities provided that none of them violated a fundamental or other right of an inmate or any other nobody.
The case came to the High Court after an NGO filed a PIL. Subsequently, in December 2017, the High Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the alleged unlawful confinement of several underage women and girls at the ashram.