The Karnataka High Court on Monday stayed the arrest of Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru, the head pontiff of the Murugarajendra Mutt in Chitradurga, in a case under the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (Posco) Act.
Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru, who was released on bail on November 16 in connection with a child sexual abuse case, was arrested again in connection with a second case after a Chitradurga district court on Monday issued a non-bailable warrant for his arrest.
In the second case, where an arrest warrant was issued on Monday, the seer is accused by a woman who worked at the mutt of sexually assaulting her teenage daughter who lived in the mutt hostel.
“The order dated 20.11.2023 passed by II Additional District and Sessions Judge at Chitradurga issuing non-bailable warrant is stayed,” the bench of Justice Suraj Govindaraj said on Monday evening, directing authorities of the Chitradurga District Jail to release the seer from custody.
The bench has also asked the Chitradurga district court to defer its proceedings ahead of the trial against the seer and others until final orders are passed in a plea of the seer in the High Court.
“Needless to say, since the matters are being deferred, the question of petitioner appearing in those matters on any date given would not arise since no orders can be passed in the said matters,” the HC said on Monday.
The 65-year-old seer, who was first arrested in September 2022 in connection with the alleged abuse of two children residing in the mutt’s hostels, was granted bail on November 8 by the Karnataka High Court in one of two FIRs registered against him under the Pocso Act, 2012.
The seer had not obtained bail in a second FIR and the second additional district sessions court in Chitradurga, where chargesheets had been filed by the police, issued non-bailable warrants for his arrest in the second Pocso Act case on Monday morning.
Last week, the seer had walked out of prison after obtaining bail despite the prosecution’s argument that the release of the seer would harm the interest of the teenage victims of abuse.
The High Court had looked at the gravity of the offence, prima facie materials indicating involvement, likelihood of fleeing, and chances of evidence and witness manipulation to order bail.
“It is no doubt true that the accused is the Chief of Mutt which has a large number of devotees and followers. His position itself cannot be a reason for drawing an inference that he will try to meddle with the evidence. The mere allegation to this effect cannot be considered if a case for bail is otherwise made out,” the HC stated in its November 8 bail order for the seer.
“Bail is not an absolute liberty; conditions are always imposed while granting bail. If he misuses the liberty and violates the conditions of bail the same may be considered for cancellation of bail,” the court had said.
The bail had been granted on the execution of two bonds of a sum of Rs 2 lakh, and directions to refrain from witness tampering, and staying out of the Chitradurga district until the conclusion of the trial.