Asaram rape case verdict in Jodhpur soon amid tight security, he faces at least 10 years in jail
Asaram is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl from UP at his Jodhpur ashram in 2013. He has been in jail for 56 months since his arrest on September 1 that same year.Asaram Verdict Updated: Apr 25, 2018 15:14 IST
A Rajasthan court is expected to rule on Wednesday in a rape case against self-styled godman Asaram, who is accused of sexually assaulting a minor girl at his Jodhpur ashram in 2013. (Asaram case verdict live updates)
Authorities have put in place watertight security, asked three states to be on alert and imposed prohibitory orders in sensitive areas, anticipating trouble by legions of followers of the influential 79-year-old who runs about 400 ashrams across the country.
The verdict is expected soon. If convicted, Asaram will get a minimum of 10 years in jail. The maximum punishment for charges against him is life imprisonment.
Asaram Bapu, as he is known to his followers, was charged with raping a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh’s Shahajahanpur in 2013. Arrested in September that year, he has been in Jodhpur Central Jail for 56 months.
On Wednesday morning, judge Madhusudan Sharma shifted to a courtroom on the jail premises, where the order will be delivered, after reaching the special court in Jodhpur around 8am. This process is likely to take about an hour.
The special court had on April 7 reserved its judgment for April 25 after the final arguments that stretched for over five months. The state had appealed in the high court that the verdict be pronounced on the jail premises to prevent any breach of peace.
Stringent security measures are in place in Jodhpur and the rest of Rajasthan after a Union home ministry advisory.
The Centre also told Gujarat and Haryana to be on alert to prevent a repeat of the large-scale violence that singed Haryana and Punjab after the conviction of another self-styled godman, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, in a rape case last August.
Asaram has a large support base in Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat, where he has been booked in a similar case.
Two Surat-based sisters, who stayed at Asaram’s ashram in Gujarat between 1997 and 2006, lodged separate cases against Asaram and his son, Narayan Sai, accusing them of repeated rape and illegal confinement, among other charges.
As the trials in these cases progressed, three key witnesses died and other witnesses and families of victims were attacked or received death threats.
Authorities are trying to ensure there’s no repeat of the kind of chaos that followed the August 2017 conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan.
Rajasthan police conducted a flag march around the Jodhpur central jail on Tuesday evening led by deputy commissioner of police (East) Amandeep Singh Kapoor.
Kapoor said no one except those authorised to be present there will be allowed near the jail on Wednesday.
While prohibitory orders banning the assembly of five or more persons had been in place in the Jodhpur Police Commissionerate area since April 21, Kapoor said 1,500 police personnel will be deployed around the Central Jail premises, railway stations, roadways bus stand and court premises on Wednesday.
Police also said that hotels and dharamshalas were being checked to ensure that Asaram’s followers would not be able to congregate. Police have asked the railways and roadways authorities to remain vigilant.
The Uttar Pradesh administration tightened security near the house of the woman who accused Asaram of sexual assault in Jodhpur.
Shahjahanpur superintendent of police KB Singh said, “We are aware of the law and order challenges which may come up after the judgement. We have made arrangements for the security to the girl and her family.”
First Published: Apr 25, 2018 08:29 IST