In a major relief to self-styled godman Nityananda Swami, facing rape and other criminal charges, the high court granted him conditional bail but said he had "fallen short" of his image as a spiritual head. Restraining Nityananda from spiritual preaching, the court said "the video footage (purportedly showing him in a compromising position with an actress) has hurt the feelings of people. Hurting peoples' feelings is worse than a stab injury".
"Nityananda had fallen short of his image as a spiritual head, a sanyasi and a guru who should be free from all attachments and should have strong determination and courage", Justice Subhash B Adi said. Nityananda, in jail for nearly two months, was asked to furnish a personal bond of Rs one lakh and two sureties. The judge held that in view of the material collected and the memo filed by the public prosecutor that there is no evidence so far (about the criminal charges), the "court has not option but to enlarge Nityananda on bail as his personal liberty is involved". The court, however, imposed a rider that Nityananda will not be allowed to conduct spiritual preaching classes except yoga and meditation.He was also restrained from leaving the juridiction of police without informing and asked to appear in the jurisdictional police station once in 15 days.
It made a detailed note of events since the day the first complaint was lodged and also recorded the proclamation made by Nityananda claiming himself to be an incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara and sometimes Krishna. The court also referred in detail to the investigation material placed before it and recorded findings as to why the charges made in the two FIRs still stood unsubstantiated. Noting that Article 21 of the Constitution provides for personal liberty and freedom to every citizen, the court said that in view the facts and circumstances (before it), his detention was not warranted. It also said though an appeal was issued to the public through the newspapers by the investigating officer calling upon them to register complaints if they had any against Nityananda, there was no response.
Nityananda's close aide Gopala Reddy alias Bhakta Nityananda, who was arrested along with him in Solan district in Himachal Pradesh on April 21, was also released on bail on condition of furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and one surety. Counsel for Nityananda, Vivekanda Gupta, said "we accept and abide by the verdict of the high court". To a question on Nityananda's release from Ramanagara sub-jail where he is being lodged, Gupta said "it depends on the legal formalities which need to be completed in the magistrate's court in Ramanagara".
Nityananda landed in controversy after a purported video footage showing him in a compromising position with an actress was telecast by local TV channels in March. The Madras High Court had stayed all criminal proceedings against Nityananda pending before a court at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu where a complaint has been filed against the self-styled godman.
Additional Reportage: PTI