New Delhi: The CBI on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that its efforts to trace self-styled preacher Virender Dev Dixit, who had allegedly confined several women at an ashram in Delhi, have not yielded results so far.
The agency has informed that Dixit "is absconding and has not joined investigation and efforts are being made to trace him in Nepal," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said.
Officials of Dixit's North West Delhi ashram, from where girls and women were rescued, also told the court that they were not aware of his whereabouts as he does not stay long at one place and keeps moving from ashram to ashram delivering sermons.
The submissions were made before the bench which asked CBI to explore additional steps, including issuing a Look out Circular (LOC) to trace Dixit, who according to the agency could be hiding in Nepal, where also he has set up ashrams or institutions.
The court asked the CBI to file a fresh status report about the efforts made by it to trace Dixit and listed the matter for hearing on May 8.
The bench also said that the ashram should not keep the women and girls locked up in the building or in cages.
The inmates were kept in "animal-like" conditions behind metal doors in a "fortress-like" building surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
Meanwhile, Dixit's ashram told the court that it has changed its name from 'Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya' to 'Adhyatmik Vidyalaya' and the requisite modifications have been made on its website, You Tube channel and the building itself, located in Rohini.
Taking note of the submission, the court asked the institute to file an affidavit stating the changes it has made. It also directed it to ensure that all printed material it distributed bore the new name and no material should include the word 'vishwavidyalaya' in its name.
The name was changed on the basis of an earlier direction by the high court.
When the court asked the institute's lawyer about the whereabouts of Dixit, the advocate said the 'leader' never stayed for long at one place and has been going around delivering sermons since 1998 and therefore, no one knows where he is.
To this, the bench asked the lawyer to state the name of one 'leader' who is behaving in this fashion. It asked the committee appointed by it to conduct random inspection of the ashrams run by Dixit in Delhi to ascertain the health condition of the inmates there.
The committee, comprising advocates Ajay Verma and Nandita Rao as well as Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal, was appointed by the court initially to inspect the ashram at Rohini after a PIL was moved before it by an NGO which alleged that girls and women were being illegally confined at the "spiritual university" in Rohini.
Thereafter, on December 22, 2017 the court had directed the CBI to trace Dixit.
The CBI was also asked to investigate the alleged illegal confinement of girls and women at the ashram after the court-appointed committee said the inmates were kept in "animal-like" conditions behind metal doors in a "fortress-like" building surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
At the first hearing of the matter, the court had said that the situation at the Rohini ashram was "similar" to the one in Sirsa, Haryana, without directly referring to the Dera Sacha Sauda case and its chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim.