Swami Premananda (guru)
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|Born||Prem Kumar Somasundaram
November 17, 1951
Matale, Sri Lanka
|Died||February 21, 2011
Cuddalore Central Prison, India
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 a murder in 1997.
Life and work
Originally from Sri Lanka, Kumar had an ashram and orphanage there, in Matale. He moved to India with his followers in 1984 to escape the Sri Lankan Civil War, bringing with him undocumented Sri Lankan orphans who had been in his care.:¶4 He initially opened an ashram in a rented building in Tiruchirappalli, then moved to Fatimanagar in 1989.:¶4 The ashram there covered 150 acres of land with plantations of flowers, fruit, and teak. The ashram served as a shelter for women and orphan children. About 200 people lived in the ashram, most of Sri Lankan origin. Branches of the ashram later opened in the UK, Switzerland, Belgium and other countries.
Accusations and trial
In 1994, one of the girls living in the ashram, Arul Jyothi, escaped and reported that she had been raped and was pregnant.:¶3 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 ashram residents also reported that another, called Ravi, had been murdered for attempting to expose the happenings at the ashram.
Trial took place in the sessions court in Pudukkottai, presided over by a woman judge, R. Banumathi. Noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani was among those representing the swami. The defence claimed that Premananda had divine powers and was capable of performing miracles, which included materializing vibhuti and regurgitating small Shiva lingams. To debunk this myth, an illusionist was invited into the courtroom; he performed both in court.
Ram Jethmalani argued that the women had consented to sex. The court noted that in some cases the consent was obtained by deceit, such as promising a cure for ailments such as 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 with dire consequences and that some of the victims were below the age of consent (16 at the time of trial) when they were raped. Jethmalani also said that the trial was unfair because witnesses and the accused had been subjected to police brutality.
DNA samples from Arul Jyothi, her aborted foetus, and Premananda were also introduced as evidence. The prosecution argued that the results established his paternity. The defense hired an expert witness from the UK, Wilson Wall, who took DNA evidence back to the UK and analyzed it; his results were that Premananda was not the father and that analysis by the Indian scientists was mishandled.:¶74, ¶90–91
On 20 August 1997, Premananda was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined ₹67.3 lakhs for 13 counts of rape, molestations of two girls and a murder. Failure to pay the fine was to carry an additional term of 32 years and 9 months. He was also convicted of cheating the residents of his ashram, which carried another one-year sentence. Six others were also found guilty of conspiracy to commit rapes and destroying evidence. Five 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.
Premananda appeared unperturbed by the sentences and while talking to reporters, said: "Truth will ultimately triumph".
In January 2000, the Madras High Court ordered that ₹36.4 lakhs from Premananda's frozen accounts should be placed in a fixed deposit for three years and the resulting interest should be paid to the victims as compensation. The original guilty verdict was appealed to the Madras High Court and the appeal was rejected in December 2002.
In April 2005, the Supreme Court of India rejected an appeal. 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 of conviction and the previous Supreme Court order. On 26 June 2010, however, the same court accepted Premananda's petition requesting a three-month parole to undergo medical treatment.
As of 2005 a European named Doris was running the ashram who said that Premananda was innocent.
On 16 November 2014, Swami Premananda's birth anniversary was observed by his devotees at the residence of C. V. Vigneswaran in Colombo, Sri Lanka. On 22 February 2015, the Swami Premananda International Conference was held in Colombo. It was attended by A. T. Ariyaratne, founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, D. M. Swaminathan, a Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister, C. V. Vigneswaran, the Chief Minister of the Northern Province, and about 50 delegates from various countries including Argentina, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Nepal, the UK, the US, Sweden, Switzerland, India and Poland.
- "Premananda gets life sentence". The Indian Express. 21 August 1997. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- Madras High Court Verdict December 12, 2012
- "Judgment that provoked Jethmalani". The Times of India. 3 June 2005. 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.
- "Holy ghost! Unholy fathers". Tehelka. 14 May 2005. Archived from the original on 23 July 2015. 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.
- "The Angry Young Man". Tehelka. 25 June 2005. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
- Wilson Wall (2005). The DNA Detectives. Robert Hale. pp. 162–165. ISBN 9780709075042.
- K. S. Jayaraman for Nature News. 11 September 1997 DNA fingerprinting evidence questioned
- Sunil Pandya. 2008 Conference on "National Agenda on Problems and Solutions: Hyderabad. 12-14 December 2008 The National Medical Journal of India 21(6):327
- "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.
- "Godman Premananda passes away". Deccan Herald. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
- "Swami Premananda Birthday celebration in Colombo". Om Lanka. 16 November 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
- "Swamy Premananda International Conference". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 5 April 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2016.