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"We Are Aghast": Delhi High Court Issues Show Cause Notice To Ashram Allegedly Confining Over 100 Girls In 'Animal-Like' Conditions

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
19 April 2022 10:15 AM GMT
We Are Aghast: Delhi High Court Issues Show Cause Notice To Ashram Allegedly Confining Over 100 Girls In Animal-Like Conditions
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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday expressed grave concern over the condition of over 100 girls alleged to be illegally confined in Adhyatmik Vidyalaya, a spiritual ashram in Rohini led by absconding self-styled godman Virendra Dev Dixit.A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla was of the prima facie view that the institute should be taken over by...

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday expressed grave concern over the condition of over 100 girls alleged to be illegally confined in Adhyatmik Vidyalaya, a spiritual ashram in Rohini led by absconding self-styled godman Virendra Dev Dixit.

A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla was of the prima facie view that the institute should be taken over by the Health Department of the Delhi Government for its management and running.

It therefore put the Respondent institution to notice through its inmates, who claim to be peacefully managing the institution, to show cause why it should not direct the take over of the so-called Ashram by the Delhi government.

"There is obviously something going on over there…Sheer nonsense! In broad daylight in a city like Delhi you're going on with these scandals. This won't go on for another day. We are aghast to read this," the Bench told the counsel appearing for one of the inmates, Respondent no. 4.

Parents of respondent no. 4 are the petitioners in the present proceedings. They have approached the Court being aggrieved by the fact that the institution is (allegedly) not permitting them to meet their daughter, despite the directions issued the predecessor Bench in a similar writ petition titled Foundation for Social Empowerment vs. Union of India & Ors. (W.P.(C) 11382/2017).

In the said case, vide order dated December 19, 2017, the High Court had constituted a Committee to inspect the premises. As per a report submitted by Advocate Nandita Rao pursuant to the same, the premises itself is unauthorized. It houses over 100 girls in "animal-like conditions" with no privacy. It has an extremely narrow passage of such low height that the inspection team had to roll double to pass through. She also expressed apprehensions about the health of inmates, indicating that they may be under the influence of drugs/ narcotic substances. They are completely confined behind metal grills with no access to sunlight and even their sleeping area is monitored.

Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, Swati Maliwal, also said in her report that from physical features, most girls appear to be minor and that the Child Welfare Committee must be called upon to visit the premises and undertake age verification process. She had also said that the no medical attention is given to the girls.

Citing these reports, coupled with the fact that 10 FIRs have been lodged against Dixit, including for the offence of sexual assault, who is now absconding, Senior Advocate Menaka Guruswamy appearing for the Petitioners sought apposite directions from the Court. She argued that denying the Petitioners to meet their daughter is a clear violation of the High Court's order dated 27.07.2018 in Foundation for Social Empowerment (supra).

She cited Section 14 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which envisages relatives stepping in the role of parens patriae in respect of persons with mental illness, even if they are adults.

The proxy counsel appearing for Respondent no. 4 on the other hand denied the allegations. He claimed that the Respondent no. 4 and other inmates wilfully refused to meet their relatives. He added that no substance abuse was detected as per the medical report of inmates submitted by doctors from AIIMS and IHBAS. 

However, the Court opined that the doctors' report "does not gel" with the reports prepared by DCW Chairperson and by Advocate Nandita Rao- that project an "alarming situation" in relation to running of the institution. "In fact, it appears to us that these reports are contradictory," the Bench remarked.

It added,

"We find it difficult to accept that the inmates of the instituting, including Respondent no. 4 are in their full senses when they claim that they are at the intuition out of their own free will and that they are not under any coercion, undue influence."

The matter is now listed on April 21 alongwith Foundation for Social Empowerment (supra).

Meanwhile, it is directed that the DCP concerned shall ensure that the Petitioners are able to meet Respondent no. 4 before the next date. It ordered adequate police protection be provided to the Petitioners upon their visit to the institution. It further directed that neither the institution nor any of its inmates shall obstruct this meeting which will take place privately.

The Court has also asked the DCP concerned to ensure that the inmates presently housed at the said facility in Delhi are not removed to any other facility of the institute in meantime.

Case Title: DUMPALA MEENAVATHI AND ANR. v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS.

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