The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked a petitioner seeking shutting down of Ashrams run by 'fake babas' to serve the petition upon the Centre in order for them to come up with suggestions regarding the the possible course of action.
The Bench, comprising of CJI SA Bobde, and Justices Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna, directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to read the Petition and seek instructions from the Government regarding suggestions on what could possibly be done.
While admitting the plea, CJI Bobde took note of the allegations regarding criminal activities and unaccounted money which these Ashrams could be lending themselves to.
"If this man says there are 17 ashrams that are fraudulent, declared by some akhara, it raises questions. There is a lot of money involved, criminal activities are taking place."
"What can be done? This kind of practice gives a bad name to everyone", he said to the Solicitor General.
We'll look into it. There are a number of akharas in india, which are centuries old", responded Mehta.
The Bench also discussed the prayer regarding guidelines for the establishment of Ashrams across India as well as directions to authorities to ensure a register of inmates is maintained and fake Ashrams are verified.
The Centre must consider all these aspects, and inform the Court of possible action that may be taken when the matter comes up again after a period of 2 weeks.
The Apex Court was considering a petition which sought an urgent direction to shut down all ashrams run by "fake Babas" or spiritual leaders on the argument that the "unhygienic conditions" prevailing in them could defeat the efforts of contain the spreading COVID-19 contagion.
Citing an order of the Apex Court from March 23, where directions were passed in an attempt to decongest jails and ensure social distancing during the Corona virus scare, the petitioner argues that a large number of women/girls inmates are living in jail like conditions in these Ashrams. The petitioner claims his own daughter has been living in such an Ashram in Rohini, Delhi since 2015 which was founded by a fake Baba who is a rape accused and has been absconding for about 3 years. In this light, he seeks directions from Court for "rescuing his daughter along with about 170 women inmates from Corona virus who are living in jail like conditions in Adhyatmika Vidyalaya at Rohini of Delhi as it was done in the case of inmates of jails across the country."
Having named the founder of this Ashram, the petitioner goes on to submit that the "apex body of sages i.e., 'Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad' has declared 17 Babas as fake babas and cautioned the public from them." This list includes some well-known names including Asaram Bapu, Gurmeet Ram Raheem, Radhe Maa and Veerendra Dev Dixit against whom "very serious criminal cases" are registered. The plea urges the top Court to take stringent action against illegal Ashrams run by these 17 "bogus babas" and order vacation of the same which are "having hundreds of women inmates in un hygienic conditions to avoid spreading of Covid 19".
Further directions are sought from the Court to close down any such ashram which is run by persons found to have any criminal records.