The Jodhpur Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Court on Wednesday sentenced 77-year-old religious leader Asaram to life imprisonment in a rape case, ANI reported. Two other accused – Shilpi Gupta and Sharatchandra – were sentenced to 20 years each in prison, Rajasthan Director General of Police OP Gahlotra told News18.
The court had convicted the three of them earlier in the day in connection with the rape of a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur in 2013.
After the conviction, Asaram’s spokesperson Neelam Dubey had 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.
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 increased security came after followers of another religious leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on a rampage when 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.
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 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.