26 April 2022 8:15 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court today constituted a Committee, to be led by a District Judge, to keep a close watch and monitor the situation at Adhyatmik Vidyalaya, a spiritual ashram in Rohini led by absconding self-styled godman Virendra Dev Dixit. The ashram is said to confine over 100 women in "animal-like" conditions.The Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice...
The Delhi High Court today constituted a Committee, to be led by a District Judge, to keep a close watch and monitor the situation at Adhyatmik Vidyalaya, a spiritual ashram in Rohini led by absconding self-styled godman Virendra Dev Dixit. The ashram is said to confine over 100 women in "animal-like" conditions.
The Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla observed that women and children are a vulnerable class and therefore, some vigilance is required to keep a check on the functioning of these institutions.
"We Are Aghast": Delhi High Court Issues Show Cause Notice To Ashram Allegedly Confining Over 100 Girls In 'Animal-Like' Conditions
The Committee shall comprise of:
1. Concerned District Judge having jurisdiction of the area or his/her nominee holding the rank of ADJ, who shall be the chairperson of the Committee;
2. Concerned District Magistrate;
2. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Women Cell) having jurisdiction in the area;
3. Secretary, District Legal Services Authority;
4. One nominee of Delhi Commission for Women (DCW);
5. District officer of Women and Child Department, who shall be the convenor and shall also act as the Nodal officer.
The functioning of the said committee shall be supervised by Ms. Kiran Bedi, former LG of Puducherry. It shall be obligation of the GNCTD to provide whatever assistance is required by her in discharge of her functions.
"We are of the view that a Committee should be constituted so as to keep a close watch on the welfare of the inmates of the Respondent institution, who are all stated to be women above the age of 18 years. The Committee shall function to see and ensure that no woman inmate or child, if any, found in the Respondent institution is subjected to any such treatment which may tantamount to breach of her Fundamental Rights or other legal rights," the Bench said.
At the same time, it clarified that the institution shall be free to pursue its religious and spiritual activities, provided none of them infringe any Fundamental Rights or other rights of any inmate or any other person.
Earlier, the Court had asked the Delhi government whether it is willing to take over the management of the Respondent institution. Today, the Bench was informed that since the property in question is of private nature, it would not be appropriate for the government to interfere.
Advocate SK tripathi appearing for GNCTD submitted that the Court may constitute a Committee with team of doctors, which can go inside the institution. Thereafter, if any violation of laws is found, then the government can take appropriate action.
Accordingly, the Court ordered that the Committee shall be provided with access by the institution to inspect the premises and to interact with inmates freely, on a regular basis, it added.
Further, the records of the institution with regard to inmates who have joined the institution from time to time shall also be made available to the Committee for their inspection.
Moreover, the committee shall be free to take assistance of medical doctors, psychiatrists and other experts to make an assessment of the physical and mental well being of the inmates at the institution.
The Court has also directed the Delhi government and the Central government to examine the suggestions put forth by the DCW with regard to formation of Committees to look into affairs of institutions like the Respondent, so as to ensure that women in such institutions do not suffer any violation of their Fundamental Rights and legal rights and there is proper vigilance and scrutiny to ensure welfare of such vulnerable classes.
The matter will next be heard on May 27.
Case Title: DUMPALA MEENAVATHI AND ANR. v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 372