Probe into Shiroor seer's death gains momentum

By PTI Published on Jul 25, 2018 11:25 AM IST

Mangaluru: The probe into the suspicious death of Udupi-based Shiroor mutt chief Laxmivara Teertha last week due to suspected poisoning is gaining momentum with the police questioning several persons related to the mutt in the last three days.

Police said a close woman acquaintance of the late seer was questioned as part of the probe on July 21. Udupi superintendent of police Laxman Nimbargi has dismissed reports that she has been taken into custody. He said nobody has been detained or arrested, though the police team was making several enquiries.

Besides the woman, several others, including an auto driver who is believed to have introduced her to the seer, have been questioned by police. The woman was frequently present in gatherings at the mutt, sources said. The former manager of the mutt, Sunil Kumar, has alleged that the woman had been managing the routine affairs of the mutt for more than a year, and that he was thrown out overnight when he questioned her style of functioning.

Police are also probing reports that two businessmen from Mumbai, said to be the seer's disciples, had cheated him to the tune of Rs 26 crore. In a video clip, the seer is purportedly explaining his predicament to Daiva (demi-god) during an Aaradhane (prayer) that he had given money to the people in good faith, but they did not give it back, police said.

Nimbargi, who visited the Shiroor mutt yesterday, said the digital video recorder at the mutt was found missing. It was not clear whether the DVR was not there for long or that it went missing after the seers death, he said, adding that the matter was being investigated. The DVR had in February captured the visuals of the theft of cows from the mutt's cattle shed, which was widely publicised. The DVR box was stationed inside the room of the seer where entry was not allowed to staff members.

Police said the SP was accompanied by a medical practitioner yesterday to collect the details of medicines used by the seer. Nimbargi told reporters that the investigation was progressing. Being a high profile case, no action could be taken before getting the report from the forensic science laboratory, Nimbargi said. "As investigation has to be conducted from all angles and everything needs to be examined minutely, it may take more days for the investigation to reach a conclusion," he said.

Police have been deployed around the mutt premises. The priest performing puja at the base mutt at Shiroor and cleaning staff are allowed for two hours in the morning and evening to complete their task, police said.

Sode mutt, the dwandva (parallel) mutt of Shiroor, has appointed Subramanya Bhat, who was earlier working for Shiroor mutt, to take care of the jewellery and other assets at the mutt. As the investigation is on, the Sode mutt is yet to fully take over the administration of Shiroor mutt and its assets as is the custom during exigencies.

The 54-year old seer passed away at a private hospital in Manipal on July 19, with doctors voicing "suspicion of poisoning" and the kin alleging foul play. KMC Hospital, where the seer was admitted and died, has said there was "suspicion of poisoning," while his brother Lathavya Acharya filed a police complaint in Udupi, alleging that he had been poisoned to death, and demanded a probe.

Shiroor mutt, established by 13th century philosopher Madhwacharya, is one among the 'ashta' (eight) mutts around Udupi.

A case has been registered under section 174 (c) of CrPc (death under circumstances raising reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence) based on Acharya's complaint.