The Delhi High Court on Tuesday allowed the publication of a book on religious leader Asaram’s conviction and arrest in a rape case, setting aside a district court’s stay on it earlier this month, Live Law reported. Asaram is currently serving a life term in Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
The book, titled Gunning for the Godman: The True Story Behind Asaram Bapu’s Conviction, was scheduled to be published by HarperCollins on September 5. It is a first-hand account of the religious leader’s arrest and conviction by police officer Ajay Lamba along with writer Sanjeev Mathur. An excerpt from the book was also published by Scroll.in.
The court’s order came on an appeal filed by HarperCollins against the district court’s stay order. Justice Najmi Waziri noted that the book is based on facts available in the public domain. He added that discussions based on solid facts are protected under the freedom of speech and expression.
“In a civilised society, which is governed by rule of law, discussions should be governed by facts,” the judge said. “The moment such discussions go into speculations and unproven facts, the right to injunction arises.”
The district court had stayed the book’s publication on a civil suit filed by Sanchita Gupta, an associate of Asaram who was convicted under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences in 2018 in the case related to the rape of a 16-year-old girl. Gupta had argued that the book was defamatory and would influence her appeal pending against the conviction in the Rajasthan High Court.
Waziri noted that Gupta had moved the district court against the book just a day before its scheduled publication. HarperCollins, meanwhile, said it had announced the book’s launch back in July.
The judge directed the publisher to sell the book with a disclaimer that it is based on the judgment of a trial court, which is under appeal.
In 2013, two sisters from Surat had filed separate complaints against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement. In April 2019, a local court in Surat sentenced Narayan Sai to life imprisonment after the younger sister accused him of repeatedly raping her between 2002 and 2005 when she was living at his ashram.
In April 2018, Asaram was convicted in a separate rape case in Jodhpur in Rajasthan, where he is currently serving a life term awarded by the court. The case against him in Rajasthan was filed after a 16-year-old accused him of raping her in 2013.