Jodhpur: A Jodhpur court on Wednesday convicted self-styled godman Asaram of raping a minor girl at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur.
The verdict was pronounced in the TADA court in the Central Jail amidst high security, apprehending a threat to law and order from his followers. Judge Madhusudan Sharma has also convicted four other accused Shilpi, Shiva, Prakash and Sharad.
Asaram was charged with raping a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh’s Shahajahanpur in 2013. He was arrested later that year.
The Centre asked Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Haryana to tighten security and deploy additional forces in a bid to prevent a repeat of the large-scale violence that took place in Haryana and neighboring states following the conviction of another self-styled godman, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, in a rape case last August.
Asaram Bapu rape case verdict: The self-styled godman will be present in a makeshift Jodhpur court today where the verdict will be delivered in a rape case against him. Security has been heightened across the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana where Asaram Bapu has a huge following. The Ministry of Home Affairs Tuesday asked the three states to deploy additional forces in sensitive areas and ensure law and order is maintained following the judgment.
A special SC/ST court will pronounce its verdict against Asaram and four of his associates, Sanchita alias Shilpi, Sharad Chandra alias Sharat Chandra, Prakash and Shiva alias Sava Ram Hethvadiya. Asaram is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in August 2013. All the accused, except Asaram who is lodged in Jodhpur Central Jail, are currently out on bail. Asaram has denied the charges levelled against him.
Here are the live updates:
10.56am: Victim’s father says, “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. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice.”
10.50am: Asaram’s spokesperson Neelam Dubey says, “We will discuss with our legal team and then decide our future course of action. We have confidence in our judiciary.”
10.42am: Asaram and all other accused have been convicted by the Jodhpur SC/ST court in the rape case.
10.25am: Jaipur police flying a drone around jail premises for security and surveillance purposes.
9.53am: Security has been provided to the family of Akhil Gupta, a witness in the rape case against Asaram in Surat, who was shot dead in January 2015, ahead of the verdict, police tell PTI.
9.52am: The case against Asaram is registered under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. In Rajasthan, courts hearing cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act are authorized to hear cases under the POCSO Act.
Read | Asaram rape case: Woman’s family under police protection seeks strict punishment
9.49am: There are thirty people inside the jail courtroom including the judge, one public prosecutor, five accused, 17 advocates and six court staff.
9.32am: Proceedings begin in court. Judge marks attendance of all the accused and their counsels.
9.20am: Four followers of Asaram have been detained from Jodhpur railway station. Police say they came from Gujarat.
9.16am: Asaram’s former aide Mahendra Chawla, a key witness in the case, says, “Trust judiciary and am confident that Asaram will be convicted. I request judiciary that such rapists should be hanged. Though I have security, I request Centre for additional security, my life like other witnesses is constantly under threat.”
9.14am: Co-accused Shilpi Gupta alias Sanchita, and Sharatchandra reach Jodhpur Central Jail.
9.11am: Judge Madhusudan Sharma has reached Jodhpur Central Jail courtroom with his staff.
9.10am: Ahead of the verdict, the district administration in Shahjahanpur stepped up security around the house of the victim.
9.05am: Both the roads towards the Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram is lodged, have been sealed and only mediapersons have been allowed outside the jail, PTI reports.
8.55am: Prayers underway at Asaram’s ashram in Varanasi.
8.05am: Co-accused in the case, Shiva, Shilpi Gupta alias Sanchita, Prakash and Sharatchandra will be present in the jail courtroom during the verdict.
7.55am: The judge of the special court for SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act cases, Madhusudan Sharma, is expected to reach his court at 8am, where he will be informed about the high court order allowing for the delivery of the judgment in a special courtroom inside Jodhpur Central Jail.
7.50am: The verdict in the case is expected by 10 am. If convicted, Asaram will get a minimum of 10 years in jail. The maximum punishment in charges framed against him is life imprisonment.