Asaram Bapu verdict: On Wednesday, self-styled godman Asaram Bapu was sentenced to life in prison by a Jodhpur court. The 77-year-old spiritual guru was found guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram on August 15, 2013. Special judge Madhusudan Sharma’s verdict, which comes as the rage over sexual violence, particularly the rape of minors, intensifies across the country, was read out in the Jodhpur Central Jail where Asaram has been kept for over four years. Asaram will be in prison till his natural death, the court pronounced, convicting him under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Juvenile Justice Act. It also imposed of fine of Rs 1 lakh on him.
Meanwhile, Asaram’s spokesperson said that they will discuss the case with the legal team to decide future course of action. 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. Even after the court’s order, 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’.
On the other hand, after suffering a lot in five years, the victim’s father said that they have got justice. He thanked people for standing with them during their fight for justice.
While Asaram’s fate will be decided by higher courts, if and when he chooses to approach it, the self-styled godman has other pending cases against him that make his chances of any relief from prison a difficult ask.
Here’s what lies next for Asaram as he faces other grievous charges:
1. Rape of Surat Sisters
Asaram and his son Narayan Sai are accused of raping two sisters who belonged to Surat. The sisters have lodged separate FIRs against the father-son duo. While the elder sister accused Asaram of raping her, the younger lodged an FIR against Narayan Sai, against whom trial is currently going on in Surat sessions court. The in-camera trial at Gandhinagar sessions court is underway. Nearly 30 witnesses have deposed.
2. Attempt to the murder of disciple
Raju Chandak, who was Asaram’s disciple for nearly two decades, was shot at on December 6, 2009 by Asaram and two others Kartik Haldar alias Raju and Dr K D Patel alias Kantilal. In June 2016, Ahmedabad Crime Branch charged all the three accused in an attempt to murder case. According to police, Chandak was shot in a pre-planned criminal conspiracy for testifying before Trivedi commission and speaking to the media against Asaram.
3. Ashram scandal: Death of two gurukul students
In July 2008, the Gujarat government constituted a panel under Justice (retd) D K Trivedi to probe into the circumstances under which two minor students of Asaram’s gurukul in Motera ashram. Both the minor students were found dead in Sabarmati river after they had gone missing. The issue sparked widespread protests against the ashram with allegations that the two boys had fallen prey to some black magic practitioner from the ashram.
The Commission submitted its report to the state government on July 31, 2013. However, the government is yet to table the report before Gujarat Assembly and make the findings of the commission public. The Gujarat Police initially registered a case of accidental death, which later was made a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Seven followers of Asaram were chargesheeted in 2012. The trial has been pending since then.