A Jodhpur court on Wednesday handed a sentence of life imprisonment until death to self-styled godman Asaram for raping a teenage female devotee at his ashram near the Rajasthan city in 2013. The special court also sentenced two others to 20 years each in jail amid stringent security, letting off two other accused.
Asaram broke down after hearing the sentence that was delivered in a courtroom in Jodhpur Central Jail, where the self-styled godman has been lodged for 56 months since his arrest. He was charged with raping a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh’s Shahajahanpur and arrested in September 2013. Asaram has denied the rape and can appeal the verdict in a higher court.
“I am happy to get justice…We had complete faith in the judiciary and are happy that we got justice,” said the father of the rape survivor after the guilty verdict. The Uttar Pradesh administration deployed policemen for his family’s security ahead of the ruling
Authorities put in place heavy security in and around the Jodhpur jail in view of a Union home ministry advisory that asked three states — Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana —to be on alert. These steps were taken to prevent a repeat of the large-scale violence that singed Haryana and Punjab after the conviction of another self-styled godman, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, in a rape case last August. Authorities also imposed prohibitory orders in sensitive areas in the city, anticipating trouble by legions of followers of the influential 79-year-old who runs about 400 ashrams across the country.
On Wednesday morning, judge Madhusudan Sharma reached the special court around 8am. And an hour later, he and his staff shifted to the courtroom on the jail premises, before convicting Asaram and two others around 10:40am. The court took a break after the guilty verdict and announced the quantum of punishment around 2:35pm.
The special court on April 7 had reserved its judgment for April 25 after the final arguments that stretched for over five months. The state had appealed in the high court that the verdict be pronounced on the jail premises to prevent any breach of peace.—HT