Shahjahanpur: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Swami Chinmayanand, accused of rape by a law student, was on Friday arrested and sent to 14 days’ judicial custody. He has reportedly told the police he was “sorry” for his behaviour. Meanwhile, it has been reported that the law student herself has been charged with “extortion”, based on a case filed by Chinmayanand’s team.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case also arrested three other men – all charged with trying to extort money from the former Union minister. PTI, however, reported that the SIT has named an unidentified woman as a suspect in the same case. Several news outlets, including NDTV, have said this woman is the rape survivor law student who levelled the charges against Chinmayanand.
The student has claimed the police are trying to weaken the case against the ruling party politician. News18 reported she was unhappy that, inscrutably, no rape charge was slapped on Chinmayanand.
It was also not entirely clear if Chinmayanand had apologised for the alleged rape, or for getting the woman to massage him, which was recorded on video, and shown to him during the investigation.
The charges against him were also unclear. While Uttar Pradesh police chief O.P. Singh said Chinmayanand was arrested in connection with rape, a press note issued by the SIT probing the case mentioned a lesser charge.
Instead of Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, which refers to rape, the SIT statement listed section 376C, which relates to coercive sexual intercourse by person in authority .
The section is usually applied in cases where a person abuses his position to induce a woman under his charge to have sex with him. The student studied at a college run by the 72-year-old leader’s ashram.
If proved, a rape charge can lead to punishment of up to life imprisonment. Someone convicted under section 376C can be jailed for between five and 10 years.
Hours after the arrest, the student indicated that she is not satisfied with the charges under which Chinmayanand was arrested. It is an attempt to weaken the case against him, she told reporters.
The case is being investigated by an SIT formed by the Uttar Pradesh police on the directions of the Supreme Court. SIT chief Inspector General Naveen Arora said the video clipping of the accuser being made to massage Chinmayananda was also shown to him.
“When you have come to know everything, I have nothing to say. I accept my crime and I am very sorry for this act,” the BJP leader was quoted as saying, according to the SIT chief.
But it was not clear if by crime he was referring to rape or the massage.
Singh, the Director General of Police, said Swami Chinmayanand was arrested in a case of rape.
The SIT team arrested him and conducted a medical examination. He was produced in court and sent to jail,” he said.
According to Senior Prosecution Officer Kuldeep Singh, Chinmayanand has also been booked for stalking, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.
The student has alleged she was raped and physically exploited by Chinmayanand for a year.
She first mentioned harassment by Chinmayanand in a video clip uploaded on social media last month. On Monday, she recorded her statement before a magistrate.
“There was no delay as the SIT was minutely investigating the case. When the statement of the girl was recorded, she gave some video clippings. All the video clippings of the girl, and the videos related to extortion were sent for forensic examination. And after this only Swami Chinmayanand and three other persons were arrested,” the DGP said.
The woman had submitted a pen drive containing 43 video clips to support her allegations.
Chinmayanand’s counsel Pooja Singh said the SIT took signatures of his relatives on the arrest memo but no arrest-related documents were given to them.
Ahead of the arrest, security personnel were deployed in large numbers at Mumukshu ashram where members of the SIT reached in a convoy of over a dozen vehicles.
As Chinmayanand was taken for a medical check-up, patients were stopped from entering the government hospital.
Teams led by senior police officials were deployed on the court premises and at the hospital.
The SIT has also registered a case against Sanjay Singh, Sachin Sengar, Vikram alias Durgesh and an unnamed person (Ms A) under sections that relate to extortion, criminal evidence, and causing the disappearance of evidence.
“The SIT obtained digital mobile call detail records and footage from toll tax plazas and joined all the possible sequences to arrive at the conclusion, Arora said, referring to the period during which the woman had remained missing after uploading a video clip implicating Chinmayanand.
We came to know that the girl went from Shahjahanpur to Bareilly, then to Shimla and then to Delhi. After this, the girl was traced to Dausa (Rajasthan).”
“From January 1, 2019, the girl spoke to Sanjay almost 4,200 times, and she spoke to Chinmayanand nearly 200 times. Apart from this, the exchange of messages between the girl and Sanjay was also examined,” he said.
“The probe is not complete yet, and it will continue. We have 90 days time. We do not want to leave any evidence in this case, and regular investigation of the case will continue.”
The student had earlier threatened self-immolation if the police did not arrest the politician.
The SIT has questioned several witnesses, including the principals of the two colleges where the woman studied in recent years.
They also sought the records relating to the appointment of the woman’s mother at one of the Chinmayanand-run colleges.
(With PTI inputs)