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HC stamp on life term for godman

Chennai, Dec. 13: Madras High Court has confirmed the “double life imprisonment” awarded in 1997 to self-styled godman Premananda and his secretary, Kamalananda.

The Pudukottai sessions court had awarded them the sentence five years ago.

Premananda was convicted of raping 13 women at his Fathima Nagar ashram and murdering engineer Ravi, the eyewitness, between 1990 and 1994.

A high court division bench of Justices P. Shanmugham and M. Chockalingam commended the trial court proceedings and then Pudukottai principal sessions judge Bhanumathi’s judgment.

The high court reduced by Rs 5 lakh the Rs 66.30-lakh fine slapped on Premananda. The court, however, directed that each rape victim be compensated equally from this amount.

The court also upheld the trial court’s direction that if Premananda failed to pay the fine, he should serve 32 years more in jail. The case went to the high court after Premananda appealed against the trial court’s verdict.

The self-styled godman, known for “romancing with spiritualism”, had many foreign devotees when he was one of rural Tamil Nadu’s most popular “swamis”. The high court also confirmed the jail term of 31 months awarded to Chandra Devi, Kamalananda’s wife.

The life sentences for three other accomplices were, however, reduced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. Another accomplice, similarly convicted, had died. After the trial court verdict five years ago, several women’s organisations had hailed it for upholding women’s self- respect.

Premananda was said to have powers of psychokinesis. His followers boasted of their “guru” producing “shivalingams” from his mouth. Premananda and the other accused were charged after 13 woman inmates of his ashram complained of rape.

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