Kancheepuram/New Delhi, Jan. 10: The scandal-hit Kanchi mutt was left virtually headless after junior pontiff Vijayendra Saraswati was arrested this evening, capping a dramatic day that saw the Supreme Court grant bail to his superior on the condition that he stay away from the centuries-old institution.
Vijayendra, who had been holding fort since Jayendra Saraswati's November 11 arrest in the Shankar Raman murder case, was sent to judicial custody for 15 days by first judicial magistrate G. Uthamaraj.
Earlier in the morning, Jayendra Saraswati was granted bail after 60 days in jail. A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti and Justices G.P. Mathur and P.P. Naolekar ordered the acharya to surrender his passport and asked him not to enter the mutt till investigations were over.
'Though according to the case of the prosecution, the deceased had started making complaints against the petitioner (Jayendra) since August 2001, there is absolutely no evidence collected in investigation that the petitioner made any kind of protest or took any kind of action against the deceased,' the judges said.
In Kancheepuram, the saffron-clad Vijayendra looked unruffled as he was led into a police van after being remanded in custody. He was later taken to Chennai Central prison. It is not clear who will perform the daily pujas in the mutt as both the seers will be outside or whether this 'positional vacuum' will mean de facto state control.
Vijayendra's counsel Y. Thyagrajan said his client has been charged under the same IPC sections, including 302 (murder), as the senior pontiff. He is the 25th accused to be arrested in the case.
Thyagrajan said about 50 policemen, led by Kancheepuram SP Prem Kumar, 'barged into the mutt premises around 5.30 pm' and arrested the junior pontiff 'who was then performing puja'. The counsel, who said the arrest was 'in bad taste', said Vijayendra had been questioned twice in the last two weeks and had cooperated with the police.
Vijayendra, Thyagrajan said, told the magistrate that the charges against him 'were a total lie'. 'We had pleaded with the magistrate to direct that Sri Vijayendra Saraswati be kept in the Kancheepuram sub-jail at least for a day so that he could be allowed to perform the Dhanur Maasa Puja tomorrow, before Sri Jayendra Saraswati reached Kancheepuram on being released from Vellore prison,' the counsel said. But the magistrate expressed 'helplessness'.
Asked what would happen to the mutt, he said: 'We are examining whether there is any restriction to Sri Jayendra Saraswati staying outside and performing his duties.'