LUCKNOW (Reuters) - A former government minister and senior member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was arrested on Friday in connection with rape and sexual harassment allegations made by a law student, police and his lawyer said.
Swami Chinmayanand, who previously served as India’s minister of state for internal affairs, has been charged under a section of the Indian penal code that covers sex crimes by a person in authority, his lawyer, Pooja Singh, told Reuters.
“We have enough evidence and confession from the accused to frame charges,” Naveen Arora, one of the police officers investigating the case told a news conference.
The director general of police in Uttar Pradesh state, OP Singh, also confirmed Chinmayanand’s arrest to Reuters, but declined to comment on the nature of the charges.
Pooja Singh said he had been prevented by police from seeing Chinmayanand. Om Singh, a second lawyer for Chinmayanand, said he had also been unable to meet his client and declined to comment when asked for a response to the charges.
“Cannot say anything as of now. We are moving an application in the court to shift him to the hospital from jail due to his deteriorating health conditions,” Om Singh told Reuters.
Arora declined to comment when asked whether Chinmayanand had been prevented from seeing his lawyers.
The case is the second high profile arrest in as many years of a member of the Hindu nationalist ruling party for alleged sex crimes. The previous case sparked widespread outrage and protests across the country.
The alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, accused Chinmayanand, 72, of raping and physically exploiting her, in a Facebook video released on August 22.
In the previous case in 2018, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a BJP lawmaker also from Uttar Pradesh, was arrested for his alleged role in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl.
Federal police opened a murder investigation against Sengar after a truck crashed into the young woman’s car two months ago. Sengar denies the rape and any involvement in the car crash.
The BJP, which also controls the regional government in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, expelled Sengar at the start of August.
Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow, Editing by Alasdair Pal and Nick Tattersall