Godmen and the Law: Swami Nithyananda

When it comes to religious beliefs, Indians are remarkably credulous. Many smart people have understood this well and have transformed themselves into Godmen. They often gain a huge following which seems inexplicable to persons who are agnostic by nature.

However, the long arm of the law has eventually called out many of these Godmen and exposed the reality behind their flowing robes. There is a running thread of irony in the lives of many Godmen – they lived a life of opulence while their followers poured money into their coffers and lived simply. 

The first blog in this series is about Osho and is followed by blogs on Asaram Bapu, and Ram Rahim. We now take a look at the charges against, the conviction of, and the current status of the legal proceedings against another prominent Godman, Swami Nithyananda.


In India, Godmen often turn out to be unbelievably ungodly. In India, the wheels of justice often grind agonizingly slowly but eventually, the long arm of the law does catch up with their misdeeds. They sometimes get away with the most outrageous claims. This is the brief (ongoing) saga of Swami Nithyananda who ran several ashrams in India and abroad, and has managed to flee just before he was to have the last chance to appear before the SC. He is still absconding. 

Swami Nithyananda

Swami Nithyananda is a spiritual leader and a Hindu Godman. He is known to be the founder of a trust called “Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam”, and ran several ashrams in India and abroad . He is known for his outrageous claims which his credulous, admiring audience laps up as gospel truth. Some of them include a boast that he can delay sunrise, can make cattle speak and understand Tamil, and that he can open his third eye. Clips from his videographed speeches in English have made several rounds in several WhatsApp groups ad infinitum, providing a continuous source of mirth and laughter.  

In 2010, he was seen in a pornographic video clip first telecast by Sun TV with a Tamil film actress. Nithyananda claimed he was practicing Shavasana after which he took the view that the video was fake. The actress also took the same ground in her defence.  Sun TV eventually apologized to the actress.

In the same year, a US citizen believed to be one of his disciples claimed that he raped her for almost 5 years. Nithyananda filed a defamation suit against her in the US arising out of the rape allegation. In the US, she did not appear and hence had to pay damages by default.

She also filed a complaint in Karnataka, India. She said she was under the impression that she was having sex with God. In this case, Nithyananda is facing trial under IPC Sections 376 (rape), 377 (unnatural sex), 420 (cheating), 114 (criminal abetment), 201 (disappearance of evidence, giving false information), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and other charges.

Eight years after Nithyananda was booked for rape, an in-camera trial proceeding finally began in Aug 2018. In 2014, the Supreme Court dismissed Nithyananda’s petition seeking to quash the chargesheet against him. To delay the trial, he had earlier filed a fabricated impotency report. He had also allegedly filed false cases against the victim and witnesses. Later, in 2018, he made a U-turn and contended that the sex was consensual. In 2017, the SC asked the sessions court in Karnataka to frame charges and conduct a speedy trial. He was ordered to be present in court personally, several times. It is now believed that Nithyananda fled India in November, 2019 though his passport had been revoked, and since then claims have emerged that he has created his own Hindu island nation with its own currency and central bank that he has named Kailaasa. The location of this nation is not disclosed. This shows that Nithyananda still has friends in high places, and resources are not a problem. Proof of that is the fact that while there is lot of action on bringing back to India others like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, there is no word on any such move in respect of Nithyananda. 

Swami Nithyananda was also said to be involved in an alleged abduction case in 2019 which was dismissed after two missing girls in a joint live video statement denied being abducted.

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Author
Rajesh Haldipur
Rajesh Haldipur

Founder, Law Gyani

Rajesh is a qualified CA & CWA. He has served as a Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a Director of a large urban co-operative bank and Dean of a B-School over the years. He has taught Finance for over 20 years & trained participants from several Companies and B-Schools. He is an educator and a learner (he believes both are inextricably intertwined), and a knowledge product developer. Law Gyani, which he has founded to help Law Students with their exam preparations, and to understand nuances of the law.


Co-Author

A qualified lawyer enrolled with Bombay High Court, Nayan is an enthusiastic reader, mostly of Indian Mythology and World History. Also a binge watcher and enjoys travelling to new places.


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