Apex court allows Chandraswami to travel abroad

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Thursday allowed controversial guru Chandraswami - who is facing a number of criminal charges - to travel abroad after depositing a sum of Rs.1 million in cash with the government.

A bench of Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice R.M. Loha, while granting Chandraswami permission to travel abroad, also asked the government to return his passport after renewing it.

Restrained from going abroad for his alleged role in a clutch of criminal cases, including Lakhu Bhai Pathak cheating case involving former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, Chandraswami will be going abroad after a gap of 14 years.

The spiritual guru had been seeking permission to go abroad to Britain, United Arab Emirates and Mauritius to perform ‘yagnas’ (special prayers) at the residences of some of his disciples.

The apex court allowed Chandraswami to go abroad after dismissing the Enforcement Directorate’s objection to the rulings of a trial court and the Delhi High Court subsequently, which had allowed him to go abroad.

Chandraswami faces prosecution by the Enforcement Directorate in 11 cases of allegedly violating the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA).

The directorate challenged the trial court’s order granting him permission to travel abroad. The Delhi High Court too eventually allowed him to go abroad, dismissing the directorate’s fears that he might not come back to face trial.

Allowing Chandraswami’s plea to go abroad, the high court had asked him to pledge Rs.1 million per case as surety.

The Supreme Court subsequently on Feb 12 had suspended the high court order, which the apex court restored Thursday with a slight modification.

On Tuesday, the Enforcement Directorate counsel Wasim Ahmed Qadri, while opposing Chandraswami’s plea, had told the court that he is also suspected to have a role in funding the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

This prompted the court to ask him: “If he has funded the assassination, then why did you not proceed against him?”

Earlier on Feb 26, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian had told an apex court judge B.N. Agrawal that Chandraswami owes penalty to the tune of Rs.80 million for violation of various foreign exchange control laws.


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