A police team has been formed to track down spiritual guru Asaram Bapu and take him into custody, if he fails to appear in Rajasthan for questioning on Friday in connection with a sexual assault case filed against him by a 16-year-old girl.
Asaram on Tuesday was served notice at his ashram in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, asking him to appear before police in Jodhpur for questioning before or on August 30.
“The deadline for him to appear before the police ends today (Friday). In case, he fails to turn up, we have formed a team that will be rushed to him. He will be placed under custody and brought to Jodhpur. He may be arrested after that,” a senior police official said.
The teenager had made a complaint at a police station in Delhi on August 20, accusing Asaram Bapu of sexually assaulting her at his ashram at Jodhpur city in Rajasthan. The spiritual leader has denied the allegation.
The girl studied at Asaram's ashram in Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara and stayed in a girls' hostel there.
Police summoned hostel warden Shilpi, hostel attendant Keshav and Asaram’s caretaker Shiva for questioning on Thursday. However, none of them turned up.
A police official said the spiritual guru had sought time till September 20, saying he will participate in several spiritual functions and give discourses over this period.
“The reprieve cannot be granted on the reasons cited by Asaram Bapu. He is facing a serious charge of sexual assault on a minor girl,” said the official.
A notice was also served Monday at Asaram’s ashram in Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
Asaram has been booked under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Indian Penal Code.
A look-out circular has also been issued against the guru to prevent any attempt by him to leave the country.
A police team also inspected his ashram near Jodhpur and recorded statements of several people to verify whether the girl and her parents were present at the ashram on August 15 when the alleged incident took place.
“During preliminary investigation, it has come up that the girl, her parents and Asaram Bapu were present on August 15. The owner of the land, which is being used for the ashram, told police that the girl and her parents had come to the ashram to meet him,” the official said.