Fake babas and their illegal activities are spoiling the reputation of even genuine spiritual leaders, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday, asking the central government to suggest measures to tackle phony religious gurus.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was hearing a plea seeking action against ashrams (religious retreats) run by fake spiritual gurus, which have allegedly confined inmates, particularly women, in unhygienic conditions, risking the spread of the coronavirus disease.
“There is a lot of money involved and criminal activities are happening. See what can be done? This kind of practice gives a bad name to everyone,” CJI Bobde told the central government’s second senior-most law officer, solicitor general Tushar Mehta.
The petitioner, Dumpala Ramreddy, was asked by the apex court to provide Mehta with a copy of the petition so that he can suggest solutions to deal with the problem.
Reddy approached the top court in April alleging that his daughter was confined in the Adhyatmika Vidyalaya Ashram at Rohini in Delhi founded by Veerendra Dev Dixit, who has been absconding since 2017 after being charged for raping a minor girl in 1999.
Reddy submitted that central and state governments were not taking action against fake babas and were allowing such illegal ashrams to function, often from unauthorized premises.
“Considering the urgent prevailing situation due to spreading of Corona virus in the country particularly in places where social distance is not maintained….the petitioner prays for the intervention of this Hon’ble Court for the rescue of the women/persons in the ashrams,” the petition stated.
The petitioner also sought guidelines to be laid down to govern the establishment and functioning of such ashrams and to close down those run by people with criminal records.
He also cited a list released by the Akhil Bharatiya AkharaParishad, a body of Hindu religious ascetics, declaring 17 babas including Veerendra Dev Dixit, Asaram bapu, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Radhe Maa as fake religious gurus.
Even so, ashrams run by the 17 people, Reddy contended, are continuing to function with thousands of disciples residing on their premises.
“If this man (Reddy) saysthe Akhara has declared that there are 17 ashrams that are fake, it raises serious questions,” the bench remarked.
Reddy sought the evacuation of inmates from the ashrams in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The authorities are not verifying the facilities available in the ashrams and the ashrams are in very poor condition. They do not have basic amenities and conditions are very unhygienic”, the petition said.