THE HINDU, Chennai, Saturday, August 31, 2013
Chennai: Justice P.R. Raman of Kochi, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, will enquire into allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry.
An order to this effect was passed by Justice K.K. Sasidharan of the Madras High Court on a writ petition by the ashram trust. The trust was aggrieved by the territorial government’s action in nominating the Puducherry Collector to enquire into the ashram affairs following complaints by some ashram inmates and a local legislator, to flare up the issue.
Mr. Justice Sasidharan directed the Puducherry Chief Secretary to treat the enquiry officer (EO) as a State Guest and provide him all required facilities for conducting an impartial enquiry.
The ashram and others should extend their cooperation to the officer to hold the enquiry in a free atmosphere. The inmates should be given full freedom to express their views and grievances.
The EO would also enquire whether there was alleged violation of human rights and denial of fundamental rights to the inmates, whether there was misappropriation of ashram funds and whether there was truth in the allegation of illegal sale and lease of ashram property by the trustees.
Counsel submitted that the ashram was not against any enquiry with regard to the complaints. Its objection was only against the Collector conducting the enquiry with a pre-determined mind.
Mr. Justice Sasidharan said there was no dispute that the ashram was an institution of international repute. The issues raised by some ashram members, MLA Ashok Anand, and others should not result in lowering the ashram’s image. The Ashram’s sanctity should be preserved at any cost. Since the petitioner and the authorities had agreed on the enquiry by Mr. Justice Raman, he was of the view that the former Judge should be appointed as EO.
Sathya Sri Priya Easwaran, an advocate of Kochi, suggested by the EO, has been appointed to record the statements of women inmates of the ashram.
The High Court restrained the parties to the writ petition from raising the issues now referred to the EO in any other forum or in any other manner pending enquiry proceedings. The EO should conclude the enquiry as expeditiously as possible and submit a report to the High Court.