The Supreme Court on Thursday took cognisance on its own over reports of a woman student going missing after levelling allegations of harassment against former union minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand. The issue, which was mentioned before the apex court on Wednesday by a group of lawyers urging it to take cognisance in the matter, would come up for hearing on Friday before a bench of Justices R Banumathi and A S Bopanna.
The Shahjahanpur police had on Tuesday lodged an FIR against Chinmayanand after the student went missing following her allegation in a video clip that he had been harassing her. Her father had filed a complaint with police accusing Chinmayanand of sexually harassing her, a charge refuted by the BJP leader's lawyer who claimed it was a "conspiracy" to blackmail him.
The woman's father alleged that she has gone missing at the behest of the 72-year-old BJP leader, who heads Mumukshu ashram. She is a post-graduate student in one of the colleges run by the ashram.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh police had released posters of the missing student. The posters identify the woman, which is banned by law in a case involving sexual assault. The FIR registered by police does not mention any sexual assault and the case is filed under IPC sections related to abduction with the purpose of murder and criminal intimidation.
The group of lawyers, in a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had requested him to take suo motu action based on media reports that the student has gone missing for the past three days.
"Your lordships, we the undersigned members of the legal fraternity and practising lawyers of this court are extremely disturbed and concerned about the wellbeing of the girl concerned. We as a society cannot allow another 'Unnao case' to happen. This court has been interfering in letter petitions when it comes to protection of human rights," the letter said.
It urged the court to take cognisance in the matter and issue notices to the chief secretary and director general of police of Uttar Pradesh as also the principal of the college, where the woman is studying, so that immediate action can be taken to trace her, and give protection to the woman and her family. It also referred to the reports about the video clip in which the woman is speaking about threat to her and her family's life.
In the Unnao case of Uttar Pradesh, a 19-year-old woman has levelled rape allegations against MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was expelled from the BJP after the incident came to light. The rape survivor in the Unnao case and her lawyer had suffered critical injuries in a road accident in Raebareli district in Uttar Pradesh on July 28. Her two aunts died in the incident and her family alleged that the accident was an attempt to eliminate her.