The Interpol has asked nations to help locate self-styled godman Nithyananda, who had fled India last year to save himself after a rape case was registered against him in Karnataka.
A blue-corner notice has been issued against him, which makes it compulsory for countries to share information on any person involved in a crime, the Gujarat police have said. The police are also working to get a red corner notice issued against Nithyananda.
What is a blue corner notice?
A blue corner notice is an enquiry notice and is issued to locate, identify or obtain information on a person of interest in a criminal investigation.
Nithyananda will be eligible for arrest if a red corner notice is issued against him.
After he went missing in November last year, the Ministry of External Affairs had said: "No formal communication by Gujarat police or from the Home ministry yet. Also, for extradition request, we need the location & nationality details of the person. We don't have such info about him yet."
It was also being speculated that Nithyananda fled the country before September 2018 as his passport expired on September 30, 2018, and was due for renewal. Sources in the Gujarat Police said that Nithyananda's passport (Number Z-1864348) was issued from Bengaluru office on October 1, 2008, and was valid till September 30, 2018.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (Ahmedabad rural) KT Kamariya had told IANS: "The Bengaluru passport office has confirmed that accused's passport was not renewed. He, however, had applied for renewal but could not get the NOC (no objection certificate)".
The investigation had revealed that Nithyananda escaped from the country before the renewal date of his passport approached. The Gujarat Police believe that Nithyananda is hiding somewhere in South America.
What are the charges against Nithyananda?
Nithyananda is accused of abducting children and using them to raise money for his ashram in Hirapur, almost 50 km from Ahmedabad.
The Gujarat High Court had in November last year issued a notice to him after a Bengaluru-based couple filed a petition accusing the religious leader of detaining two of their daughters at his ashram.
In a habeas corpus petition, the couple had said they had admitted their four daughters to an educational institution run by Nithyananda in Bengaluru in 2013 when they were between seven years and 15 years of age.
The girls were shifted to the Yogini Sarvagya Peetham in Hirapur village, almost 50 km from Ahmedabad, without their knowledge. When they visited the institution to meet their daughters, they were reportedly not allowed inside.
The couple said they managed to rescue their two youngest daughters with the help of the police but the other two refused to come with them.
Two of Nithyananda's disciples – identified as Pranpriyanand and Riddhi Kiran – were arrested in November and charged with kidnapping, assault, and illegal confinement. They used to manage the Hirapur ashram.
He was also arrested in 2010 in Himachal Pradesh over rape allegations and was allegedly seen in explicit footage with an actress.
Years ago, a video featuring Swami Nithyananda and Ranjitha surfaced on the internet and went viral on social media. The controversial footage showing the two in a compromising position was also aired by several television channels. The incident led to public outrage in Bengaluru with some vandalising the swami's ashram in Bididi.
Nithyananda has only been seen in online videos making sermons in recent months. After he fled the country, reports of him buying an island in Ecuador and naming it "Kailasa" had also surfaced online.
However, Ecuador has denied the presence of the self-styled godman and said it had rejected his request for asylum. The Embassy of Ecuador also suggested he had left the country for Haiti.
Nithyananda's real name is Rajashekharan and he is a native of Tamil Nadu. He opened an ashram near Bengaluru in the early 2000s.