Refusing to give any relief to self-styled godman Asaram, the Rajasthan high court on Tuesday rejected his bail petition in the case of sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl after the prosecution described him as a paedophile.
"Bail petition is dismissed at this stage," justice Nirmal Jeet Kaur said after hearing nearly two-hour-long arguments between Asaram's lawyer and former union law minister Ram Jethmalani and prosecution counsels in a packed court room.
The rejection of the bail petition means that 72-year-old Asaram, accused of sexually abusing the minor at his ashram in Manai on August 15, will have to stay in his cell in Jodhpur jail where he has been lodged since September 1.
The prosecution made a forceful case against the controversial godman describing him as a paedophile, a man with sexual interest in underage children.
Many countries including the US, have zero-tolerance policy towards paedophiles and have law with provisions for stringent punishment to anyone even found guilty of viewing images of underage girls or boys.
Police have slapped sections of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Pocso) against Asaram besides sections 376, 342, 506 and 509 of the IPC and sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Asaram was arrested by Jodhpur Police on September 1 from his Indore ashram.
Asaram's lawyer Jethmalani, who appeared before the high court bench for the third time on Tuesday, produced written arguments along with some affidavits before the court and said that all the accused wanted in the case have been arrested and that only one person, Shilpi, is still wanted by police.
Shilpi is the warden of the gurukul in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh where the minor girl and her brother were studying. Police claim that it was Shilpi who told the girl's parents that the minor was possessed by evil spirits and they should approach Asaram for her exorcism.
"No recovery is pending from any of the accused and considering the old age of Asaram, he should be granted bail," Jethmalani argued.
Additional advocate general Anand Purohit opposed the plea and said that the charges level against the accused are of serious nature and investigation is still going on.
"They (Asaram's supporters) are constantly threatening the victim and her family and are creating scenes every day. If court grants him bail, he will try to tamper evidences," Purohit contended, adding that police was yet to file the charge-sheet and granting bail at this stage would not be justified.
After hearing the arguments, justice Kaur rejected the bail application.
Coming out of the court, Jethmalani said that he would comment only after studying the detailed orders of the court.
The bail application first came up for hearing on September 16 and since the arguments remained inconclusive, the high court put off the proceedings till September 18 and then decided to hear his bail plea on Tuesday.