Jodhpur: Five years after being arrested for having raped a minor on pretext of exorcism, Jodhpur Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Court, gave a landmark judgment by sentencing Asaram, a self-styled Godman, for lifetime. His associates, Shilpi and Sharad, will now have to spend 20 years in jail, as they have been awarded 20 years of imprisonment.
The 77-year-old godman has been in jail since the Jodhpur police arrested him in Indore, Madhya Pradesh in August 2013, on the charges of raping a 16-year-old school girl. Since the trial began in 2013 to the judgment delivered today, nine witnesses had been attacked, leaving three dead. Understanding that the rapist Godman has a large number of fan-following, the court had itself shifted to Jodhpur Central Jail, where it announced the verdict.
The rape survivour’s father hailed the verdict and has maintained that now justice should be delivered for cases, pertaining to the witnesses of this case being murdered or kidnapped. Observers maintain that it was sheer courage of the victim that made it possible for the influential Godman to be punished. The girl stood rock solid against all the threats and pressures and never changed her statement.
Former chief minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, under whose tenure Asaram was arrested, had made the case to be so strong that he never managed to get a bail. In last five years, on twelve occasions, bail petitions were filed and even lawyers like of Ram Jethmalani, Subramanian Swamy and Salman Khurshid fought the case, but failed to get bail for the godman. Speaking to ANI minutes after the conviction, Gehlot said, “The time has come when people should be able to differentiate between the actual saints and the frauds, as this creates a bad image of the country in the international arena.”
As Asaram get life sentence, because of large number of followers, it is believed that there could be a law and order issue. Hence after the verdict, Jodhpur DCP Amandeep Kapoor has appealed to media houses to get the correct version out.
Significantly, in another rape case, Asaram and his son Narayan Sai are the prime accused for having raped two sisters, in Surat. Supreme Court has recently asked the lower court to complete the trial in six months time.