Jodhpur court on Wednesday convicted self-styled godman Asaram of raping a teenage female devotee, dashing the hopes of thousands of followers who claim he is innocent. The special court also convicted two others in the 2013 case amid watertight security, letting off two of his alleged accomplices.
Asaram faces a minimum of 10 years in jail. The maximum punishment for charges against him is life imprisonment. The judge will announce the prison term for Asaram later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and the self-styled godman’s attorneys. Asaram has denied the rape and can appeal his conviction in a higher court.
The verdict was delivered in a courtroom in Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram has been lodged for 56 months since his arrest. He was charged with raping a 16-year-old girl from Uttar Pradesh’s Shahajahanpur and arrested in September 2013.
Authorities 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.
On Wednesday morning, judge Madhusudan Sharma reached the special court in Jodhpur around 8am. And an hour later, he and his staff shifted to the courtroom on the jail premises, before delivering the order around 10:40am.
The special court 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.
“This is a historic verdict for criminal jurisprudence. The truth has won. It shows that if the law works impartially, even persons from the weakest sections of the society can take on the most influential ones and get justice,” said Ajay Pal Lamba, the IPS officer who supervised the investigation into the case.