Bengaluru: After being ‘arrested’ late Thursday night, a district court in Chitradurga in Karnataka Friday sent influential Lingayat mutt chief Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru to three days of police custody. The police had sought custody for five days.
Clad in white over his saffron robe, the seer looked sullen and was brought to the court in a wheelchair amid tight security. He did not answer questions from the media.
The seer was arrested a week after an FIR was registered against him for alleged sexual assault of two minor students. However, Mutt sources said that the seer had surrendered before the police as a dutiful citizen and not arrested.
Sources say that the arrest was made after high-level consultations and for fear of the Dalit communities who had started protests seeking the immediate arrest of Shivamurthy.
The police and the state government faced criticism for alleged inaction in the case despite the case being registered under the stringent POSCO provisions.
After his arrest, the seer was taken to a hospital in Bengaluru when he complained of chest pain. He was handed to police custody by the district court after doubts over his health condition were cleared.
When asked about the delay in arresting the seer, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the law is fair and will take its own course.
Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Siddaramaiah said the charges levelled against Lingayat seer Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru were 'serious' and urged the police to carry out an 'impartial investigation' in the matter.
In a tweet, Siddaramaiah said: "The allegations against Chitradurga Muruga Mutt Swamiji are serious. The police should carry out an impartial investigation based on the complaint filed by the girls and reveal the truth."
The ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress and the JDS chose to downplay the arrest for fear of upsetting the numerically powerful Lingayat community just eight months ahead of the Assembly elections. Former chief minister and Lingayat leader BS Yediyurappa is close to the seer and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had met Shivamurthy last month and sought his blessings.