A local court in Jodhpur today convicted spiritual guru Asaram Bapu and two others in a rape case of a minor girl in 2013. While Asaram was awarded life term, the two persons who have been found guilty along with the self-styled godman – Shilpi and Sharad were given 20 years of imprisonment, each. The court, however, acquitted two other persons accused in the case. The acquitted persons are Shiva and Prakash.
Top 10 developments
1. Pronouncing the judgement, Judge Madhu Sudan Sharma held Asaram and two others guilty under Section 376 of the IPC, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act. The chargesheet filed by police on November 6, 2013 named Asaram Bapu and four more. Police booked Asaram under sections of POCSO Act and SC/ST Act. He is also charged under Sections 342 (for wrongful confinement), 354A (sexual harassment), 370(4) (trafficking), 376(2)f (rape on a woman when she is under twelve years of age), 506 (criminal intimidation), 509/34 and 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
2. Neelam Dubey, Asaram’s spokesperson said that they will discuss the case with the legal team to decide future course of action. “We have confidence in our judiciary,” she said. The Trust had appealed for calm a day ahead of the crucial verdict. Asaram had also advised his supporters not to throng the jail premises where the verdict was to be pronounced.
3. After the court held Asaram guilty, it convened again after a short break to begin hearing on the sentencing. The police had moved an application before the court urging to pronounce the sentencing before winding up the court for the day. Police cited security concerns in its application. Police said that they have permission till tomorrow for the arrangements that have been done inside the jail. In case, the court decides to defer the sentencing, the police said that they will have to seek permission from the competent authority to make arrangements again.
4. During the hearing for the quantum of sentence, Asaram’s counsel cited his age and health factors to urge the judge to award him minimum jail term. The minimum punishment under the Sections in which he is charged is 10 years and the maximum punishment a life term.
5. Adequate security arrangements were made ahead of the judgement in order to avoid a repeat of the violence that broke out in the aftermath of the verdict in the Gurmit Rah Rahim Singh case last year. Three companies of Special Task Force (STF) and 6 companies of Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (RAC) were deployed to Jodhpur to maintain the law and order situation. Besides, 1,500 police personnel were posted in and around the city. Checkposts were also setup at all entry points. All the roads heading towards the jail were closed since morning. A special court was set up inside the barrack number 2 of the Jodhpur Central Jail where Asaram is lodged since his arrest on September 1, 2013. The order to hold in-camera hearing inside the jail was passed by the Rajasthan High Court earlier this month.
6. Meanwhile, the victim’s father said that they have got justice. He thanked people for standing with them during their fight for justice. “I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice,” he said. He added that the family suffered a lot in the past five years.
7. A total of 14 lawyers were allowed by the court to present inside the courtroom. Besides, 15 more persons including Asaram, co-accused, court staff, defence and prosecution counsels were present inside the court premises. The court had on Tuesday ruled that no media persons will be allowed to enter the court premises to report about the case. The court had also ordered all allowed persons to deposit their mobile persons outside.
8. Even after the court’s order today, his followers say that Asaram Bapu has been jailed on false charges. Several followers flocked to ashrams in different cities and alleged conspiracy against their ‘guru’. Police also detained Asaram’s one supporter outside the Central Jail in Jodhpur where prohibitory orders have been clamped. Police said that he supporter reached near the jail and tried to put a garland on his poster. The poster was put on a wall of a corridor outside the jail boundary where the family members of prisoners wait.
9. The girl was 16 when the crime had taken place. The crime had occurred at Asaram’s ashram in Jodhpur on August 15, 2013. The girl was a student here. Five days later, when the girl narrated the ordeal to her mother, the family rushed to Delhi to confront the spiritual guru but they failed. Later they filed a complaint with the Delhi Police. The subsequent day, the case was transferred to the Jodhpur Police. Police arrested Asaram on September 1 from his asharam in Indore and since then he is behind the bars.
10. After this, two Surat-based sisters had filed two sexual assault cases each against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai. They accused them of raping and confining them. The girls were students at Asaram’s ashram between 1997 and 2005. The matter is currently pending before a local court in Gujarat.