As trial ends in tears, Asaram set for life as Qaidi No 130

Asaram broke down in tears after a court in Jodhpur Central Jail sentenced him to life imprisonment for raping a minor girl in 2013.

Asaram Verdict Updated: Apr 25, 2018 23:12 IST
Salik Ahmad
Salik Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Asaram,Asaram case verdict,Asaram rape case
File photo of Asaram after being arrested from his Indore ashram in connection with the sexual harassment case. (PTI Photo)

When judge Madhusudan Sharma on Wednesday sentenced Asaram to a life term in jail until death, the 79-year-old held his head, took off his red cap, got down on his knees and wept, lawyers present in the courtroom inside Jodhpur Central Jail said.

“He broke down on hearing the sentence,” said one of the lawyers on condition of anonymity.

Asaram was flanked by Prakash Dwivedi, his cook and personal assistant, and Shiva alias Sawarama Hethwadia, a sewadar (volunteer), both of whom were acquitted of involvement in the August 2013 crime of a teenager’s rape.

It was at about 9.10am when the cavalcade of 10-12 cars carrying the judge, the prosecution and defence lawyers, policemen, both senior officials as well as rank and file, entered the premises of the Jodhpur Central Jail. Proceedings in the case began a little later, around 9.30am. There were 30 people in the courtroom: the judge, one public prosecutor, five accused, 17 advocates and six court staff.

The judgment in the rape case against Asaram and his four other associated was to be pronounced in the special court inside the jail, next to barrack number two, where Asaram has been lodged, and close to the barrack where Salman Khan spent two days earlier this month after he was found guilty of killing two black buck in Jodhpur in 1998.

The self-styled godman stood in the witness box along with his associates, 5-7 policemen flanking the accused. He was wearing his signature white robes and red headgear. Before the proceeding started, Asaram was smiling, chatting with other co-accused and also laughed loudly. People present in the courtroom said they didn’t know why he did so but once the proceedings started, he could be heard intermittently chanting ‘Hari Om’.

At about 10.40am, the court pronounced Asaram guilty. The court also found Shilpi, who has been identified by his first name in the charge-sheet, and Sharad Chandra guilty.

“All five including Asaram looked worried. When the judgment came, Shilpi, the warden of Asaram’s ashram in Chhindwara, broke down. It appeared as if Asaram expected his conviction,” said lawyer Rajendra Singh Charan.

After the conviction, the court heard arguments over the punishment. “We said Asaram is a gunda (thug), he is a shaitan (devil), and he must be given the most stringent punishment,” said Charan.

“The defence lawyers put forth age- and health-related issues of Asaram and that he had done great social service in tribal areas. In addition, they said that Asaram had letters of praise from the chief ministers and the President,” he added.

While arguing before the court for the minimum sentence, Asaram’s counsel said Asaram is old, not in the best of health, and has done a lot of social work in tribal areas, said one of the lawyers for the victim.

Arguments over the sentencing ended around 12.20 pm and the judge retired to his chamber to dictate the order. It was then Asaram asked for a glass of water and stood in the court with folded hands.

The judge returned to his seat around 2pm and after photocopies were distributed to lawyers of the convicts, he pronounced his sentence Asaram was sentenced to serve a life term in prison. Two co-accused were sentenced to jail for 20 years each. Asaram then removed the headgear, scratched his head and started crying, said a lawyer who was present in the court.

A dejected Asaram put his hand over the shoulder of Shiva and slowly walked out of the courtroom soon after the proceedings ended.

In the evening, the jail authorities allocated number 130 to Asaram, meaning he will be known as Qaidi (prisoner) No. 130.

First Published: Apr 25, 2018 23:09 IST