Justice T.L. Viswanatha Iyer, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, will be the enquiry officer (EO) in the place of Justice P.R. Raman, to look into allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry.

By consent, in an order on August 30, Justice K.K. Sasidharan appointed Mr. Justice Raman, also a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, to probe the allegations. Pursuant to the order, Mr. Justice Raman conducted a preliminary enquiry. The next enquiry is scheduled from October 23 to 26.

The EO appeared to have received a representation from 165 persons from Odisha, stated to be ashram devotees, and who had some information regarding the issues under consideration. The original understanding was that the enquiry would be confined to complaints from the inmates of the ashram and the local MLA, and as such, it would take at least three months. The EO was of the view, that it would take a minimum six months to complete the process. He therefore expressed his difficulty to continue as he had to come from Kochi frequently. He requested that he be relieved from the engagement.

Mr.Justice Sasidharan ordered that the enquiry would be in relation to the complaints received by the District Collector. The present and former inmates of the ashram were at liberty to approach the EO, if they were aggrieved. It was open to the EO to take a decision with regard to participation of third parties, provided they satisfied that they were inmates of the ashram at a particular point of time. The EO should conclude the enquiry as early as possible and file a report before the High Court preferably by December 31. The matter has been posted for January 2, 2014.

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