The Karnataka High Court has refused to quash rape charges against Dr. Shivamurthy Muruga Sharanaru, the pontiff of Murugha Mutt in Chitradurga. He is accused of sexually abusing two underage girls who were residing in the hostels operated by the Mutt.

The Bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna did quash the order of the Trial Court which framed a catena of charges against the accused, while directing it to redraw certain charges on the basis of the High Court's observations.

Senior Counsel CV Nagesh and Counsel KBK Swamy appeared for the petitioners, while Addl. SPP. Jagadeesha BN and SPP Belliappa appeared for the respondent.

In 2022, a complaint was filed against the petitioner, who is the Pontiff of Sri Jagadguru Mururugharajendra Bruhanmutt in Chitradurga. The complaint alleged sexual abuse of two girls aged 15 and 16, who were inmates in a hostel run by the Mutt. It was claimed that the abuse occurred over several years. The case was transferred to Chitradurga police, and charges were filed under various sections of the POCSO Act and IPC.

After the charge sheet was filed, the petitioner sought discharge, but the court rejected the application and framed charges against him. The petitioner challenged the framing of charges, arguing that they were based on erroneous interpretations of the law and facts. The defense contended that the charges were unfounded and politically motivated, orchestrated by individuals with a personal vendetta against the Pontiff.

The prosecution defended the charges, asserting that they were based on evidence and warranted a trial. They argued against interference in the legal process, emphasizing the seriousness of the allegations.

The High Court refused to sustain the following offences, by holding that they were loosely laid against the petitioner:

1. Sections 3 and 7 of Religious Institution Prevention of Misuse Act 1988;

2. Sections 3(1)(w)(i)(ii), 3(2)(v)(v-a) of the Scheduled Castes And the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989;

3. Section 75 of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015;

4. Gang rape – Section 376DA of the IPC;

5. Destruction of evidence - Section 201 of the IPC.

On the other hand, the following offences were sustained on the ground that they would require evidence, and it was for the Pontiff to come out clean in a full-blown trial:

1. Section 376 (2)(n) of the IPC;

2. Section 376(3) of the IPC; and

3. Sections 5 and 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012.

Consequently, the matter was remitted back to the hands of the concerned Court to redraw the charges so framed, bearing in mind the observations made.


Petitioner: Senior Counsel CV Nagesh, Counsel KBK Swamy

Respondent: Addl. SPP. Jagadeesha BN, SPP Belliappa

Cause Title: Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru vs State of Kerala

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