Swami Premananda (guru)
November 17, 1951
Matale, Sri Lanka
|Died||February 21, 2011 (aged 59)
Cuddalore Central Prison
|Known for||Building women's shelter and orphanage, conviction for rape and murder|
Prem Kumar (Nov. 17 1951 – Feb. 21 2011), better known as Swami Premananda, originally from Sri Lanka, was an Indian guru who founded the Premananda ashram. He was convicted of multiple counts of rape and murder in 1997.
Life and work
Originally from Sri Lanka, Swami Premananda moved to India from Matale in 1984 with his followers to escape the Sri Lankan Civil War. He founded an ashram near Tiruchirappalli in Pudukkottai district, Tamil Nadu, in 1989. The ashram served as a shelter for women and orphan children. About 200 inmates lived in the ashram, most of them were of Sri Lankan origin. The ashram covered 150 acres of land and has 10 acres of teak plantations. Later by 1989, the ashram had opened branches in the UK, Switzerland, Belgium and other countries. It also has an international youth wing.
In 1994, one of the girls, Arul Jyothi, living in the ashram escaped and reported that she was raped and was pregnant. The All India Democratic Women's Association provided moral support and legal aid to the victims. On 15 November 1994, the police started an investigation. Two of ashram inmates also reported that another inmate, Ravi, had been murdered for his attempt to expose the happenings at the ashram.
The trial underwent in the sessions court in Pudukkottai. A woman judge, R. Banumathi, presided over the trial. Noted criminal lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, was among the ones representing the Swami. The defence claimed that that the Swami had divine powers and was capable of performing miracles. The miracles included materializing vibhuti and regurgitating small Shiva lingams. The judge found it necessary to debunk this myth and an illusionist was invited to the court and he performed both the miracles in the court.
Ram Jethmalani argued that the women had consented for sex. The court noted that in some cases the consent was obtained by deceit, like by promising cure for ailments like asthma or by saying that sex with the Swami was "service to God". The court also noted that some of the girls had been threatened of dire consequences and some of the victims were below the age of consent (16 at the time of trial) when they were raped. Jethmalani also pointed out that the trail was unfair as witnesses and the accused had been subjected to police brutality.
On 20 August 1997, the Swami was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined ₹67.3 lakhs for 13 counts of rape, molestations of two girls and a murder. The failure to pay the fine carried an additional 32 years and 9 months. He was convicted for cheating the inmates of his ashram which carried another one year sentence. Six others were also found guilty of conspiracy to commit rapes and destroying evidence. Five of them were given life sentences. In view of the severity of the crimes, the judge denied them any future remission of their sentences or amnesty by any state or central government.
He appeared unperturbed by the sentences and stated that "Truth will ultimately triumph" while talking to the media-persons.
In January 2000, the Madras High Court ordered that ₹36.40 lakhs from the Swami's frozen accounts should be placed in a fixed deposit for the three years. The resulting interest should be paid to the victims as compensation. In April 2005, the Supreme Court of India rejected an appeal from the Swami. Ram Jethmalani, who was his counsel, pointed in the petition the continued support of his devotees even after the accusations came to light. On 5 February 2009, the Madras High Court rejected a habeas corpus petition keeping in view the recommendations of the district sessions judge at the time conviction and the previous Supreme Court order. On 26 June 2010, the Madras High Court accepted the Swami's petition requesting three-month parole for undergoing medical treatment.
The Swami and his ashram continued to be popular even after the convictions. Wilson Wall, author of the book "Forensic Science in Court: The Role of the Expert Witness", points out the police brutality used and the mishandling of the DNA evidence in the book.
- "Premananda gets life sentence". The Indian Express. 21 August 1997. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- "Godman Premananda passes away". Deccan Herald. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- Kalpana Kannabiran; Ranbir Singh (11 November 2008). Challenging The Rules(s) of Law: Colonialism, Criminology and Human Rights in India. SAGE Publications. pp. 100–102. ISBN 978-0-7619-3665-7. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- "Judgment that provoked Jethmalani". The Times of India. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- "Holy ghost! Unholy fathers". Tehelka. 14 May 2005. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- Scientoonic Tell-Tale Of Genome And Dna. I. K. International Pvt Ltd. 1 January 2009. p. 113. ISBN 978-81-89866-60-0. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- Abraham Samuel. Laws of Hospital Administration. BI Publications Pvt Ltd. p. 22. ISBN 978-81-7225-380-6. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- "Court directive on Premananda accounts". The Hindu. 11 January 2000. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- "Jethmalani's charges 'disturb' top lawyers". The Times of India. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- "Premananda case: habeas corpus petition dismissed". The Hindu. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- "Pass orders on Premananda's plea". The Hindu. 26 June 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- Wilson Wall (1 October 2009). Forensic Science in Court: The Role of the Expert Witness. John Wiley & Sons. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-470-98576-2. Retrieved 15 September 2013.