M A I N   N E W S

Seer remanded in police custody
Tribune News Service

Kancheepuram, November 19
The Kanchi Shankaracharya and his devotees today received a big blow as the Judicial Magistrate remanded him in three-day police custody for his alleged involvement in the Sankararaman murder case.

While passing the order in a packed courtroom this morning the Judicial Magistrate, Mr G. Uttamarajan, said: “After perusing the case diary and other documents, the court is satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for granting police custody of the Kanchi seer, Jayendra Saraswathi, one of the prime accused in the September 3 temple official murder case. It is just and necessary for further investigation.”

“Jayendra Saraswathi is hereby ordered to be granted police custody from 12.05 p.m. on November 19 to 10.30 a.m. on November 22,” he ordered.

There was a hushed silence in the court when the Magistrate passed the order and the Shankaracharya, who was brought in a police van from the Vellore central prison around 10 am, looked sad and tired.

The Magistrate also said that the seer’s lawyer could meet him on all days of police custody and directed a government doctor to be available throughout and examine him everyday.

The Hindu pontiff’s counsel said advocate V. Krishnaswamy would meet the seer every evening while in police custody.

Before the Magistrate passed his order, defence counsel Y.T. Thyagarajan again pressed his arguments against police custody citing the 1978 Supreme Court order in the Nandini Sathpathy case, which had laid down guidelines about police custody.

He wanted a safeguard against any “harassment and psychological pressure” in case the seer was remanded in police custody and argued that the presence of a lawyer at the time of custody was a “constitutional claim”.

Mr Thyagarajan also wanted the court to be informed about the place of interrogation and a guarantee that the nominated lawyer be informed about it too.

The defence counsel yesterday had requested the Magistrate not pass the order between 10.30 am and 12 noon today as it was “Rahu kalam” and inauspicious.

Though all were present in the courtroom at 10.30 am the Magistrate came from his chamber at 11.30 am only. By the time he finished reading his order it was 12.05 pm.

The Shankaracharya was immediately escorted out of the court under heavy security and taken away in a vehicle followed by a huge police cavalcade. Television crews trying to follow the cavalcade were prevented by the police.

It was later learnt that the pontiff was taken to the all-woman police station situated within the district police chief’s office complex.

No mediapersons were allowed inside the complex.

After the Kancheepuram court’s order, the seer’s defence counsel at the Madras High Court moved an appeal against it before Mr Justice R. Balasubramanium trying to get some relief. But the Judge said he would hear the petition tomorrow.

According to police sources, the Shankaracharya would be lodged in a room in the police station and all arrangements had been made to make his stay comfortable with a proper bed and the kind of vegetarian food he might want.

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