Self-styled godman Asaram was on Wednesday sentenced to imprisonment for life by a Jodhpur court which found him guilty of raping and illegally confining a minor in his ashram in Manai on the outskirts of Jodhpur, Rajasthan in year 2013.
Judge Madhusudan Sharma sentenced Asaram to life imprisonment while his associates -- hostel warden Sharatchandra and Shilpi, who was the hostel warden in Chhindwara ashram where the victim was studying in a gurukul – have been handed down 20 years of jail term.
The sentence was pronounced in a courtroom in Jodhpur Central jail where Asaram is lodged amidst heightened security to avoid repeat of massive violence that ensued the conviction of Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim late last year.
Earlier during the day, the court had held the trio guilty but let off two other associates of Asaram.
Minutes before the pronouncement of sentence, a follower of Asaram was detained by the security personnel.
Sources in the court said Asaram broke down after the sentencing.
It is to be noted that it is the same case in connection with which the CIC had in March upheld the decision of the Delhi Police to not share information with an RTI applicant who claimed that the alleged incident of sexual assault never took place and he sought to investigate the falsehood behind it.
Facts of the case:
The verdict comes almost five years after Asaram, more famously known among his followers as Asaram Bapu, was arrested on September 1, 2013 for raping the 16-year-old native of Sharanpur, Uttar Pradesh in August, 2013.
The teenaged rape survivor was studying at the gurukul in one of Asaram’s ashram in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh.
The girl was not keeping good health and suffered convulsions.
Shilpi, who was the warden of the ashram’s hostel in Chhindwara, tricked her parents into taking her to Asaram’s ashram near Jodhpur in 2013 for treatment of convulsions. She told her parents that their daughter was possessed by evil spirits and needed to be exorcised.
In Jodhpur, she was sexually assaulted by Asaram in August, 2013. Asaram threatened her that her parents waiting for her outside the room would be killed if she does not give in. She was then sexually assaulted.
Later, the victim narrated Asaram’s misdeeds to her parents who brought her to Delhi where Asaram was organising a religious event.
Unsuccessful in meeting Asaram, the parents lodged a complaint with the Kamla Market police station and a zero FIR was registered on August 20, 2013.
Since the offence had taken place in Jodhpur, the FIR was transferred there following which Asaram was arrested.
Despite threats to life, the girl stood her ground and recorded her statement over a span of 27 days.
In November, 2013, a 1,200-page chargesheet was filed against Asaram and his associates spoke of blackmail in exchange of sexual favours, after which they were booked under Sections 342, 376, 506 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
Over the last four years, since the trial began, as many as nine witnesses in the two cases, including Asaram’s personal aide and another associate, have been attacked. Three of them died.
The 77-year-old Asaram faces another rape case in Surat, Gujarat, where two sisters have accused him and his son Narayan Sai of rape and illegal confinement.
He had been in judicial custody since his arrest and had unsuccessfully moved 12 bail applications.
Read the Judgment Here