The Delhi High Court has sought assistance from retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi on a matter concerning the welfare of women living in an ashram founded by self-styled spiritual preacher Virender Dev Dixit.

The court, which had earlier constituted a committee under her supervision to monitor the functioning of the ashram, Adhyatmik Vidhyalaya, Rohini, directed that the former Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry be informed about the listing of the matter on October 7.

In an order passed recently, the Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said, "Ms. Kiran Bedi is requested to assist this Court in the matter on the next date of hearing".

Learned Counsel appearing for the Delhi Commission for Women undertakes to inform Ms. Kiran Bedi about the listing of the present case on October 7, 2022. The Registrar General shall also inform Ms. Kiran Bedi about listing of the matter on October 7, 2022, noted the Court in its order.

In 2017, an NGO Foundation for Social Empowerment, represented by Advocate Sravan Kumar, had moved the High Court alleging that several minors and women were allegedly being illegally confined at the "spiritual university" and were not allowed to meet their parents.

Advocate Monika Arora appeared for the Union while Advocate Aakansha Kaul appeared as Amicus Curiae. Advocate Rajesh Kumar, SPP also appeared.

The High Court had then asked the CBI to trace the founder of the ashram Dixit and directed the agency to probe the alleged illegal confinement of girls and women in the ashram where it was claimed they were kept in "animal-like" conditions behind metal doors in a "fortress" surrounded by barbed wire.

It had also immediately set up a committee, comprising lawyers and Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal, to inspect the premises of the institute.

The committee, comprising lawyers Ajay Verma and Nandita Rao, had then given a report detailing the "horrible" living conditions of the over 100 girls and women who were housed in "animal-like conditions with no privacy even for bathing."

Earlier this year, the court had asked the ashram to show cause as to why it should not be taken over by the Delhi government and said it was difficult to accept that the inmates were living there of their free will.

It had also said that while it cannot force the women living in the ashram under shocking conditions to live with their parents, no institution has the licence to conduct its affairs in a manner that violates fundamental rights of the inmates.

In April, it had constituted a committee under the supervision of the retired IPS officer to monitor the welfare and protection of rights of women living there while stating that the institution shall be free to pursue its religious and spiritual practices and the committee shall ensure that no woman inmate or child, if any, in the ashram is subjected to a treatment which is in breach of their fundamental or legal rights.

Cause Title: Dumpala Meenavathi & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.

Click here to read/download Order

With PTI inputs