A minor, who was staying at his ashram, had accused him of raping her on Aug. 15, 2013.
Jaipur: Self-styled godman Asaram was convicted of raping a minor girl and sentenced to life imprisonment till death by a Pocso court in Jodhpur on Wednesday. Asaram, 77, broke down after the sentence was pronounced and said, “Jaisi uparwale ki marzi (It’s god’s wish). We (sic) will stay here in jail.”
His legal team is expected to file an appeal in high court today.
According to sources, Asaram was restless the entire Tuesday night and got up early on Wednesday morning.
In the verdict pronounced at a specially-convened court inside Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram has been lodged for the last five years, additional sessions judge Madhusudan Sharma also convicted two of Asaram’s accomplices — Shilpi and Sharad, who were hostel wardens in Chindwara. They were given 20 years jail term each for same charges in addition to Section 109/120B, Section 7/8 read with Section 17 of Pocso Act. Two other co-accused, Shiva and Prakash, were acquitted by the court.
Prosecutor Pokar Ram Bishnoi told reporters soon after the court pronounced its judgement that Asaram would be in prison till his natural death. The court, he said, had also imposed a fine of `1 lakh on Asaram.
Asaram was arrested from Indore in August 2013, after a teenage girl from Shahajahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, filed a police complaint accusing him of raping her at his Jodhpur ashram. The victim was a student at Asaram’s ashram.
The victim had alleged that Asaram had called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.
After he was arrested from Indore, Asaram was brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013, and has been lodged there since.
Following a through probe, the Jodhpur police had chargesheeted Asaram and four others — Shiva, Shilpi, Sharad and Prakash — on November 6, 2013.
The police had charged Asaram under IPC Sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 376 (rape), 354A (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 509/34 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman read with Section 36 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), as well as under relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act and Sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act.
During the trial, the rape survivor and her family were threatened allegedly by the supporters of the godman. There were also lethal attacks on nine witnesses who had testified against Asaram. Of these, three could not survive the attacks. The victim, however, didn’t waiver from her statement during the cross examination which went on for 27 days. The defence deployed delay tactics by calling the investigation officer several times, however, he too remained firm during the cross examination which went on for 60 days and is recorded over 204 pages. One witness was called 104 times.
The Jodhpur administration had made unprecedented security arrangements following an alert from the Central government to avoid Panchkula like situation when followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim went on a rampage after his conviction.
Prohibitory orders were imposed and all roads leading to the Central Jail were blocked. Barring a few sevadars, the police got Asaram’s Pal ashram evacuated. His supporters living on rent in surrounding areas were also asked to leave. The police also arrested eight supporters of Asaram, including four women, from the railway station, his ashram and outside the jail.
Media was also barred from entering the jail premises. Rajasthan high court had dismissed applications from media persons for permission to cover the verdict inside the jail.