Ahmedabad: Two sisters missing from the ashram of self-styled godman Nithyananda in Ahmedabad told Gujarat High Court on Tuesday that they are ready to appear before it via video conference from the Indian High Commission in either West Indies or USA, even as the court insisted on their appearing in person.
Through their lawyer, the two daughters of Janardhana Sharma, who filed a habeas corpus after finding them missing from the ashram here, said they cannot appear in person as there is a threat to their lives from their father.
The division bench of Justices S R Brahmbhatt and A P Thaker, however, insisted on their appearing in person in the court, and assured them full protection. The court directed the sisters' lawyer to file a reply on their behalf in affidavit by December 19, and kept the matter for further hearing on December 20.
The police had, during an earlier hearing, told the court that Lopamudra Sharma (21) and Nandhitha Sharma (18), daughters of Janardhana Sharma, may have escaped abroad. Janardhan, in his habeas corpus plea, claimed his daughters were being "illegally confined" in Nithyananda's ashram.
He alleged authorities of a branch of Nithyananda Dhyanpeetham, named "Yogini Sarvagyapeetham", situated in the premises of Delhi Public School in Ahmedabad, did not let them meet their four daughters enrolled there. While police managed to rescue two of their minor daughters, Lopamudra and Nandhitha had gone missing.
The petitioner had sought the court's direction to the police and institute authorities to produce his two daughters in court and hand over their custody to the parents, as well as initiate an inquiry on other kids kept at the institute.
Investigations carried out by the police in the wake of the pleas led to the arrest of two disciples of Nithyananda on charges of kidnapping and illegal confinement.
A state government probe into the school offering its land to the ashram led to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) withdrawing affiliation, and FIRs against its CEO and MD Manjula Shroff and two others.
The government took charge of the school till the end of the current academic session to ensure students do not have trouble appearing in the upcoming board exams.