Publishing house HarperCollins on Wednesday said the Delhi High Court’s decision to allow the publication of a book on religious leader Asaram’s conviction and arrest in a rape case was a victory for free speech. “This book is an honest account of the evil that men do in the name of religion,” said Diya Kar, a publisher at HarperCollins

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. Asaram is currently serving a life term in Jodhpur in Rajasthan. An excerpt from the book was also published by

A district court had blocked the book’s publication after a civil suit was 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.

On September 22, the Delhi High Court had set aside the district court’s stay on the book. 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.

Divya Kar said the injunction was an “attempt to suppress the truth”. “We fought for our right to publish,” Kar added. “In the end, truth prevails.”

The publishing house added that the book will immediately be available for sale on all e-commerce platforms and in physical retail stores.

Sanchita Gupta had argued that the book was defamatory and would influence her appeal pending against the conviction in the Rajasthan High Court.

During the hearing on September 22, the Delhi High Court 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 then 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.

The rape cases

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.