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No Transfer But Karnataka HC Directs Local Court to Expedite Rape-Accused Nithyananda's Trial

File photo of Nithyananda.

File photo of Nithyananda.

In its order on February 5, the Karnataka High Court asked the investigating agency (the Karnataka CID) to take Nithyananda in custody and present him in front of the trial court at the next hearing.

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court on Monday declined a plea to transfer the trial of rape-accused godman Nithyananda from a local court in the state's Ramanagaram district, dismissing a petition filed by the main complainant against him.

The petitioner, Lenin Kurappan, moved the High Court last year asking for the trial to be moved from Bangalore Rural to Bangalore City, citing inordinate and unwarranted delays in the trial proceedings. But the bench, headed by Justice BA Patil, pulled up the petitioner for dragging the trial.

Accusing Kurappan of having a "deprecate" attitude, Justice Patil observed that even though the petitioner was present in the trial court, his refusal to enter the witness box, unless in the presence of the accused, was not appreciated.

"If he really wants to do justice, then under such circumstances he must come forward and give evidence as contemplated under the law," said the judge.

The High Court also asked the lower court to expedite the trial continuing since 2010.

Observing that both the accused and the witnesses are not cooperating, the bench said the lower court would have to adhere to the Supreme Court's guidelines laid down in the case of Akil Vs NCT of Delhi to ensure a speedy trial.

Advocate CV Nagesh, representing Nithyananda, had earlier argued that the evidence recorded by the petitioner should be re-recorded as it was done with the help of a translator, who was also a chargesheeted witness in the case. Taking note of this submission, the High Court directed the lower court to conduct a fresh recording of evidence in spite of it having been done twice before.

Trial must resume

In its order on February 5, the High Court asked the investigating agency (the Karnataka CID) to take Nithyananda in custody and present him in front of the trial court at the next hearing. However, with the godman's whereabouts unknown and reports of him having fled the country, it would be a tough task for the CID to take the accused in custody. In any case, if Nithyananda evades the upcoming trial, red-corner notices would be issued against him.

Although the first case against Nithyananda was lodged in 2010, the trial to prosecute him on charges of rape, among others, began only in 2018. With two cases questioning different aspects of the trial pending in the High Court, the trial was stayed.

However, according to the court's order passed on Monday, the trial will have to now resume. The next hearing is listed for March 4 in which Nithyananda has been mandated by law to appear personally.

Karuppan, who sought the trial transfer, had earlier filed another plea in the High Court seeking cancellation of Nithyananda's bail. He argued that the accused had last appeared in court on June 5, 2018, and has sought exemption from appearance in as many as 50 hearings.

Karuppan's plea was heard by another bench of the High Court. On February 5, the court cancelled Nithyananda's bail and ordered that he must appear for trial.

Nithyananda, or A Rajashekaran, is facing trial under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 376 (rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), and 420 (cheating).