The Allahabad high court ordered on Monday a CBI inquiry into the disappearance of an important witness in a high-profile case involving Asaram Bapu, a self-styled godman accused of raping an underage girl.
Uttar Pradesh police were trying to trace witness Rahul Sachan, who went missing from Kaiserbagh bus stand in Lucknow on November 25, 2015. Call data records of his cellphone showed his last location at Mallahwan in Hardoi district on April 9, 2016.
The high court bench of Justice AP Shahi and Justice Vijay Laxmi upbraided Lucknow police for their tardy progress in finding the missing witness. It said the shoddy police investigation warranted a CBI probe into Sachan’s disappearance.
His disappearance has triggered fears and speculation he might have been killed like other witnesses who had testified against the influential 78-year-old spiritual leader with a cult following. Asaram’s personal aide Amrut Prajapati was attacked several times and killed in 2014, while another associate, Akhil Gupta, was shot dead the following year.
Asaram was arrested in September 2013 after a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh filed a police complaint, accusing him of raping her at his ashram in Jodhpur. Her parents were his disciples, and he allegedly raped her on the pretext of a religious ritual. The godman is in Jodhpur jail now.
Asaram had dismissed the girl’s allegations, saying it’s a political conspiracy and that he was impotent. Tests revealed he was very much capable of sexual acts.
Son Narayan Sai was arrested too in 2013 after two sisters from Surat alleged that he and his father had sexually assaulted them repeatedly for several years between 1997 and 2006.
When Sachan went missing, an FIR was registered at Thakurganj police station by constable Vijay Bahadur who was in charge of the witness’s security.
Investigation revealed Vijay was on medical leave for seven days when Sachan disappeared. He was under constable Amit Kumar Singh’s protection then.
Amit allegedly left Sachan at Kaiserbagh bus stand at 9am after the witness told him that he would return the next day. Sachan never came back.
“I am much relieved now that the court has ordered a CBI probe. I hope the mystery will be solved,” said lawyer Bennet Castelino, who petitioned the court over the missing witness.
The Mumbai-based Castelino, an overseas Indian citizen practising law in New Zealand and India, moved the Supreme Court first in March this year. But he was directed to approach the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court instead.
The court heard Castelino’s petition on May 6 and directed UP police to file a status report by August 1. The government filed the report on August 5 in which it sought two months to trace Sachan.