Asaram Gets Life in Jail for Raping Teen in Ashram, Cries in Court
Apart from Asaram, two other accused were convicted by the special court. It acquitted two others.
Illustration by Mir Suhail.
Jodhpur: Self-styled godman Asaram on Wednesday was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Jodhpur court for raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago.
This is the second such case of a high profile spiritual leader being convicted of a sexual offence in less than a year, after Dera sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan was convicted of rape in August 2017.
Asaram broke down on hearing the verdict, which was read out by Special judge Madhusudan Sharma in the Jodhpur Central Jail, where the 77-year-old has been kept for over four years.
Apart from Asaram, two other accused were convicted by the special court for SC/ST cases. They were sent to jail for 20 years each. Two others were acquitted.
Police had stepped up security around Asaram's ashrams to prevent the kind of violence that was unleashed by followers when another so-called godman, Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim, was convicted of rape last August.
"Asaram was given life-long jail term, while his accomplices Sharad and Shilpi were sentenced to 20 years in jail by the court," public prosecutor Pokar Ram Bishnoi told reporters, soon after the court pronounced its judgment on the quantum of sentence to the three convicts.
Asaram would be in prison till his natural death, said Bishnoi, adding the court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on him. He said the prosecution demanded the maximum sentence.
We argued that Asaram is not a saint and he, under a conspiracy, called the victim from the hostel and raped her." he said. "Sharad and Shilpi were also the part of the conspiracy, he added.
Arguments for the quantum of sentencing were held inside the heavily fortified jail premises, where the trial court delivered its verdict in accordance with the directions of the Rajasthan High Court.
Asaram, who started from a hut on the banks of the Sabarmati, created a Rs 10,000-crore empire with 400 ashrams in India and other parts of the world in four decades.
The charge sheet against Asaram and the four other co-accused was filed by the police on November 6, 2013 under various sections of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The teenager had said in her complaint that Asaram had called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.
The 16-year-old girl from Shahjahanpur in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was studying at Asaram's ashram in Chhindwara in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
"We had complete faith in the judiciary and are happy that we got justice," her father told journalists after the verdict. The family, he said, was living in constant terror and their business was hit.
Ahead of the verdict, security was stepped up in Jodhpur where prohibitory orders were imposed. Apprehending a threat to law and order, the Centre had asked Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana governments to tighten security and deploy additional forces as the three states have a large number of Asaram followers.
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