The Jodhpur Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Court on Wednesday convicted religious leader Asaram and two other accused in a rape case, ANI reported. Asaram was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Jodhpur in 2013. The court also acquitted two of the accused.
Following the verdict, Asaram’s spokesperson Neelam Dubey said the defence would discuss the matter with their legal team and decide on further action. “We have full faith in the judiciary,” she said.
However, the girl’s father said he was happy with the judgement. “I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment,” he said. “I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice.”
On Tuesday, the Centre had asked the governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana to step up security before the Jodhpur court delivered its verdict. The police have also banned the assembly of more than four people in Jodhpur under the provisions of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code or CrPC, The Indian Express reported.
“We are expecting some of his followers might try to come, so we have issued alerts,” Shahjahanpur District Magistrate Amrit Tripathi told NDTV. “The adjacent district is also on alert.”
The increased security comes after followers of another religious leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, went on a rampage after he was convicted in two rape cases last August. Almost 40 people had died in the violence that had ensued, while the Haryana government said it had suffered losses worth Rs 126 crore in it.
Asaram’s former aide and a witness in the rape case, Mahendra Chawla, has asked the Centre for additional security, claiming that there was a threat to him and his family, the Hindustan Times reported. Unidentified people had reportedly attacked Chawla in 2015. He had sustained two bullet injuries in the attack.
Meanwhile, the Jodhpur Police detained a follower of Asaram who had reached Jodhpur Central Jail in a bid to garland the godman on Wednesday, ANI reported. Asaram’s supporters held a prayer ceremony at his ashram in Bhopal ahead of the verdict.
The girl’s father told NDTV that his daughter had stood by her testimony throughout the trial. He alleged that his family were offered money to withdraw the case against Asaram, and were threatened when they refused.
The rape cases
There are two rape cases against Asaram – one in Gujarat and the other in Rajasthan. The case against him in Rajasthan was filed after a 16-year-old accused him of raping her in 2013. Her parents, both devotees of the religious leader, had taken her to his Jodhpur ashram for a healing ritual. The girl said Asaram sexually assaulted her on August 15, 2013, and threatened her family not to report the crime. He was arrested later that month, and has been in a jail in Jodhpur since.
In Gujarat, also in 2013, two sisters from Surat had filed two separate complaints against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement.
On April 6, the Supreme Court rejected several of Asaram’s bail pleas. It had criticised the Gujarat Police for delaying the recording of evidence in one of the cases against Asaram.
In August, the Supreme Court asked the Gujarat government why it had not sped up the trial. It had asked the state to file an affidavit in answer, and also wanted to know why the victim had not been examined yet.