Asaram was today found guilty + of the rape of a teenager in 2013, ruled a special trial court today in its verdict. Of the total five accused, three – including Asaram – were convicted, and two were acquitted.The verdict was pronounced from Jodhpur central jail where Asaram is lodged. This move was due to the fear of adverse reactions from Asaram’s followers, and a repeat of the violence that followed the verdict in the Gurmeet Ram Rahim case case last August.
“Asaram is convicted, we have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment,” said the father of the rape survivor.
“We will discuss with our legal team and then decide our future course of action. We have confidence in our judiciary,” said Neelam Dubey, Asaram spokesperson, after the verdict was announced, to ANI news agency.
Asaram, who’s been in jail since August 31, 2013 + , was accused of sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The girl, who’s from Uttar Pradesh, was living in the ashram as a student. She alleged that Asaram called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.
Asaram, who’s said to be 77 currently, was charged under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Over the course of the trial, Asaram unsuccessfully moved 12 bail applications, of which six were rejected by the trial court, three by the Rajasthan high court and three by the Supreme Court.
The self-styled godman is embroiled in a rape case in Gujrat as well, where two sisters have lodged separate complaints against him and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement. Over the last four years, since the trial began, as many as nine witnesses in the two cases have been attacked. Three of them have died.
“I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice,” said the father of the rape survivor.
Ahead of the verdict, Jodhpur police imposed Section 144 in the city to prevent violence breaking out in case his followers were unhappy with the verdict .
A special courtroom was set up inside the Jodhpur Central Jail for pronouncement of the verdict, due to security reasons, because Asaram has huge following across the country.
Fearing threat to law and order in the city from Asaram’s followers, the Jodhpur police had requested the Rajasthan HC to direct the trial court to pronounce its judgment from inside the jail. After getting the HC’s nod, police initiated unprecedented security measures around the city. A 10-day prohibitory order from April 21-30 has also been issued.
“We have cleared up his (Asaram’s) ashrams and asked all hotels and guest-houses to not allow any of his followers. We have been keeping an eye on bus and railway stations as well as the airport to ensure that his followers did not enter the city,” said Jodhpur DCP Amandeep Singh Kapoor.
The Centre earlier directed Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and UP to tighten security and deploy additional forces. The Shahjahanpur district administration has stepped up security around the rape survivor’s house.
All entries to the city have been sealed and control rooms have been activated in neighbouring districts and states.