Asaram rape case verdict: Security beefed up in Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan

Asaram Bapu on wheel chair at the Jodhpur airport as he is being taken to Delhi for medical check up in AIIMS from Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
A Jodhpur trial court will deliver its verdict on the self-styled godman Asaram rape case on Wednesday amid tight security. The Rajasthan high court has asked the trial court to deliver its verdict within the jail premises. Jodhpur Police said that Section 144 will be imposed in the area until April 30

In a communication, the Home Ministry told the three states, Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan, to beef up security and ensure that no violence takes place after the judgment tomorrow. Asaram, who has a large number of followers, faces a minimum term of 10 years or awarded a maximum life term, if convicted.

"We have imposed section 144 of CrPC in the city from April 21 and it would remain effective till April 30. Besides this, we have been keeping a sharp eye on Asaram's ashrams and checking all hotels and guest houses as well as the bus and railway stations, DCP (East) Aman Deep Singh said in Jodhpur. We will also seal the jail on the day of judgment and would not allow anyone to get close to the jail premises, he said. 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 three states were told to deploy additional forces in sensitive places, a Home Ministry official said. As per the directions of the Rajasthan High Court, the trial court will deliver its verdict in the Jodhpur Central Jail premises where Asaram has been lodged for the past over four years. "We have made all arrangements for the judgment day, DIG Jail Vikram Singh said.

The magistrate along with court staff, Asaram and the co-accused along with the defence and prosecution counsels will remain present in the courtroom in the jail premises, he said. Asaram is accused of raping a teenage girl from Shahajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, who was studying at the godman's ashram at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh. Asaram has denied the rape charges. The victim had alleged that Asaram called her to his ashram in Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013. "I have full faith in the judiciary and am confident that Asaram will be given the severest form of punishment," said the victim's father.

Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He is under judicial custody since September 2, 2013.

All you need to know about Asaram rape case:

* Asaram is also facing a rape case in Surat in Gujarat in which the Supreme Court earlier this month gave five weeks time to the prosecution to complete the trial.

* Security was also stepped up around the victim's house in Shahajahanpur. A vigil is being kept outside Asaram's ashram at Rudrapur.

* Final arguments in the Asaram case had been completed by the special court for SC/ST cases on April 7 and the court had kept the order reserved for April 25.

Who is Asaram?

Asumal Sirumalani, known as Asaram by his followers, was a religious leader in India. After starting to preach in the early 1970s, he went on to establish over 400 ashrams in India and abroad and has numerous followers. Asaram received formal education until his father's death and had studied only until the third grade. In the following years, he had lived at a series of ashrams and ran away from home to an ashram in Bharuch at the age of 15.

The rape charges against Asaram

It was in August 2013 when a 16-year-old had accused Asaram of sexually assaulting her at his ashram in Jodhpur. The girl, who reportedly visited one of his ashram's to cure her from evil spirits, said in her complaint that she was asked to perform oral sex and was touched inappropriately. It is also alleged that Asaram had video-recorded his sexual acts with several women to blackmail them into granting him further sexual favours.

The complaint was filed in Delhi and Asaram was called for interrogation by the Delhi police, but when the self-styled godman did not appear until August 31, the police booked him under multiple non-bailable sections of IPC.

To avoid arrest, Asaram remained inside one of his ashrams in Indore. Clashes broke out between his disciples and the policemen, but he was eventually arrested by the Jodhpur police on September 1, 2013.

Since then the godman has been lodged at the Jodhpur jail as his bail pleas have been rejected six times.

In November 2013, the Jodhpur police filed a chargesheet against Asaram and four co-accused in the rape case.

Timeline of events in Asaram rape case

— The final arguments in the case were completed in the court of SC/ST Cases Special Judge Madhu Sudan Sharma on April 7 this year.

On July 8 in 2015, a witness, Sudha Pathan turned hostile and told the court that she had no knowledge about Asaram’s activities. Four days later, a key witness, Kripal Singh was shot at by two motorcycle-borne people in Shahjahanpur.

In February 2015, Rahul K Sachan, a witness in the case was stabbed outside the local court. He was supposed to give his statement.

Also Read: Religious figures and the love of foot in the mouth

In early 2014, the trial for the Jodhpur case began. During one of the hearing, his defence lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, had made an absurd argument and said that the victim had a chronic disease “which draws a woman to a man.

In November 2013, the Jodhpur police filed chargesheet against Asaram Bapu and four co-accused in the rape case.
On August 31, Jodhpur police arrested Asaram, who was later sent to jail by a court. His supporters created a ruckus outside court against the order.

On August 29, Asaram Bapu indirectly alleged that he was being targeted by the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. While Asaram was evading arrest, his son said that his father is not hiding and would surrender once he recovers from trigeminal neuralgia.

On August 23, supporters of Asaram Bapu attacked Kamla Market police station in Delhi. Five days later, victim’s father demanded death for Asaram Bapu, while godman’s son describes the minor as mentally unstable.

On August 20, parents of the victim filed a complaint in Delhi and later the case was transferred to Jodhpur police: The chargesheet against Asaram and four other co-accused Shiva, Shilpi, Sharad and Prakash was filed by the police on November 6, 2013 under various sections of the POSCO Act, Juvenile Justice Act and IPC.

The alleged incident of sexual assault took place on August 15, 2013.