If convicted, Asaram faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail. The trial in the case has been marked by a string of deaths and attacks on witnesses.

Asaram was arrested August 31, 2013, on charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his ashram near Jodhpur earlier that year and sent to the Jodhpur Central Jail.

Self-styled spiritual gurul Asaram greets his supporters at a court hearing in 2015.
Self-styled spiritual gurul Asaram greets his supporters at a court hearing in 2015. (Ramji Vyas/ HT file photo)

 

Asaram is accused of raping a teenage girl from Shahajahanpur of Uttar Pradesh, who was studying at his ashram at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.

The Centre on April 24 asked Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana to tighten security and deploy additional forces ahead of the verdict by a Jodhpur court in a rape case against self-styled godman Asaram, an official said.

In a communication, the Home Ministry told the three States to beef up security and ensure that no violence takes place after the verdict. The three States were also told to deploy additional forces in sensitive places, the Home Ministry official said. Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana have large number of followers of Asaram.

A court in Jodhpur is set to pronounce its verdict in the rape case against Asaram on April 25. Earlier this month, Judge Madhu Sudan Sharma of the Jodhpur court heard the final arguments from the prosecution and defence counsel and reserved the order for April 25. As per the directions of the Rajasthan High Court, the trial court will deliver its verdict in the case in Jodhpur Central Jail premises.

 

A special court in Jodhpur will deliver its verdict on Wednesday against Asaram Bapu, as the spiritual guru is known to his followers, on charges that he raped a minor.

Asaram was arrested August 31, 2013, on charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his ashram near Jodhpur earlier that year and sent to the Jodhpur Central Jail.

The girl, whose parents were long-time followers of Asaram, and her brother were students at a school attached to his ashram in Madhya Pradesh’s Chindwara. The girl fainted at the school one day in 2013 and the hostel warden told her parents that she should be sent to Asaram’s ashram to be exorcised as she was possessed by “evil spirits”.

The parents were told at Asaram’s ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur that he would need to be alone with their daughter for an hour to banish the “evil spirits”. She told her parents that she was sexually assaulted by Asaram during the period and they registered a police complaint in New Delhi.

Case against Asaram

The charges against Asaram include sexual assault, raping and illegally confining a minor, according to 1,300-page charge-sheet filed by the Rajasthan Police.

The police also charged four others, including the hostel warden and three of Asaram’s aides, with trafficking for participating in the criminal conspiracy.

Another rape complaint

Asaram is also facing a rape case in Gujarat. Two Surat-based sisters, who lived in Asaram’s ashram in Gujarat between 1997 and 2006, lodged separate complaints against him and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of repeated rape and illegal confinement, among other charges.

In the charge-sheet filed against him in a Gandhinagar court, Asaram has been accused of illegal confinement and criminal conspiracy. Five others, including his wife and daughter, have also been booked by the police.

Other cases against Asaram in Jodhpur

There are two more cases against Asaram Bapu in Jodhpur in addition to the case of sexual assault against the minor.

Alleged threats

Asaram, his personal caretaker Shiva and three of his followers were charged by Jodhpur Police in November 2014 for allegedly threatening to kill the station house officer (SHO) of Udaimandir police station on WhatsApp.

Fake documents

Jodhpur Police registered a case against Asaram and others in February 2017 for filing fake documents in support of his interim bail plea at the Supreme Court’s orders. The top court found that Asaram submitted a fake medical report during the hearing of his bail application in January 2017. It also slapped a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on Asaram.

Witnesses murdered, attacked

Three key witnesses have wound up dead as the cases have progressed and other witnesses and families of victims have been attacked or received death threats.

The first witness to be murdered was Amrut Prajapati, a 56-year-old Ayurveda doctor, who was shot at on May 23, 2014, and succumbed to his injuries a month later. He worked at Asaram’s Motera ashram for 15 years before he left in 2005.

Prajapati became a key witness in the rape case since he testified that Asaram had a special chamber at the Motera ashram where he only met women. Before this, Prajapati had testified in the 2008 mysterious deaths of two boys who studied at an ashram-run gurukul in Ahmedabad.

Another witness, 38-year-old Akhil Gupta, was shot dead on January 11, 2015, in Muzaffarnagar while returning home. Gupta, once a confidant and close aide of Asaram, was a prime witness in the rape case against him. On July 10, 2015, Kripal Singh, an LIC agent, became the third witness to be shot dead.

Mahendra Chawla, also a witness in the second rape case against Asaram and Sai in Gujarat, was attacked on May 13, 2015, in Haryana’s Panipat. During the trial in Jodhpur, Chawla told the court that Asaram sent vulgar signals to young girls. The longtime aide also told the court about the network that “supplied” girls to Asaram.

Rahul Sachan, another witness, was attacked with a sharp knife by one of Asaram’s followers on February 13, 2015, inside a court in Jodhpur.

Bail rejected

The session court has rejected Asaram’s bail plea six times. The same bail application was also rejected thrice by the high court and the same number of time by the Supreme Court.

Several prominent lawyers, including Ram Jethmalani, Salman Khurshid, KK Menon and Subramanian Swamy, have failed to obtain a bail for Asaram.

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