Self-styled 'godman' Asaram Bapu has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2013 Rape Case of a 16-year old at Asaram's Jodhpur Ashram. The court has levelled charges of raping a minor girl, wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation, criminal conspiracy and sexual harassment against Asaram Bapu. two of his associates have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In addition to this, Asaram and his son Narayan Sai are accused in a double rape case of two sisters in Gujarat, involving repeated sexual assault and illegal confinement.
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But who is Asaram Bapu and what are the cases surrounding him? We dissect it for you:
Born Asumal Sirumalani in Sindh, now a part of Pakistan in 1941, he and his family moved to Ahmedabad following the partition in 1947. According to his biography Sant Asaram Bapuji ki Jeevan Jhanki, Asaram had a series of escapades to different monasteries in search of spirituality.
In 1972, Asaram built a hut at Gujarat's Motera village, on the banks of Sabarmati. A year later, he converted it into a spiritual hermitage, starting with just five to ten followers. And today, the Sant Asaram Bapu Trust runs close to 400 monasteries...His trust runs more than 40 residential schools, a large printing press for 100-odd publications in a number of languages and an Ayurveda unit.
Charges against Asaram
There are many cases involving Asaram ranging from illegal land acquisition, murder to sexual assaults.
Here's a list of cases that Asaram is facing:
I. Jodhpur Rape Case
In the latest of the charges against Asaram, he is accused of assaulting at least two women. The girl has accused Asaram of asking her to perform oral sex and touching her inappropriately.
The parents of the girl, both disciples of Asaram filed a complaint following which he was arrested and flown to Jodhpur. Today, the Jodhpur High Court pronounced Asaram and two others guilty in the rape case.
Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana were put on high alert ahead of the verdict. Section 144 has also been imposed in Jodhpur since April 30 to prevent any kind of untoward incident.
II. Surat Rape Case
Less than two months after Asaram was arrested in the Jodhpur case, two sisters from Surat accused him and his son Narayan Sai of rape. Narayan Sai was arrested by the police in December 2013.
Following the arrest of Asaram and his son, a spate of threats, attacks and killings of witnesses willing to testify against Asaram began. Several cases of witness tampering emerged during 2014 and 2015.
Asaram sought bail multiple times, both in the Rajasthan High Court and the Supreme Court citing health issues but was denied bail each time. However, in August 2016, the Supreme court asked the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to evaluate his medical condition.
The apex court in January 2017, dismissed the bail application filed by Asaram and ordered a fresh FIR against him for attaching a false medical document along with his bail plea. He was also slapped with a Rs 1 lakh fine for filing a frivolous petition.
The apex court in August 2017, pulled up the Gujarat government over the slow pace of trial and questioned why the victims in the Surat case were not examined despite the orders of the court.
In January 2018, Asaram's lawyers told the Supreme court that out of the 92 witnesses, 22 had been examined, 14 dropped and the rest were yet to be questioned. The court had then adjourned the matter till January 22.
III. Land Grabbing Case
Asaram Bapu ran into trouble in 2013 after the Serious Fraud Investigating Office (SFIO) sought his prosecution in a Rs 700 crore land grab case in Madhya Pradesh. The land is situated along the Delhi-Pune Industrial Corridor in Madhya Pradesh and is owned by Jayant Vitamins Ltd. However, Asaram Bapu and his son allegedly grabbed the land in 2000.
Jayant Vitamins Ltd. (JVL) is a public limited company which was delisted from the Bombay Stock Exchange in 2004 for defaulting on the mandatory listing fees which companies pay to the stock exchanges to list themselves.
Though JVL did not complaint about the matter, a shareholder of the company approached the Ministry of Corporate Affairs with the complaint of mismanagement of company's properties following which the ministry transferred the complaint to SFIO in 2010 for investigation.
The SFIO sent its recommendation to the Ministry in 2013 following two years of investigation. However, the Asaram Ashram has denied the involvement of Asaram Bapu and his son in the case.
IV. Murder Case
In 2008, Asaram’s monastery at Motera was rocked by controversy after decomposed bodies of two children were found near the banks of Sabarmati behind the premises of the monastery’s school. Massive protests had followed and the parents and relatives of the two boys, accused Asaram and his monastery of practicing black magic rituals. In 2009, the CID had registered a case against seven followers of Asaram Bapu under charges of culpable homicide. The accused moved the Gujarat High Court which directed the CID to book them under charges of causing death by negligence. Following violent agitation, the state government set up a probe panel with retired Gujarat High Court Judge DK Trivedi as its Chairman. After eight extensions, the Justice DK Trivedi Commission finally submitted the report to the state government in July 2013. The report is yet to be tabled in the Assembly.
In July 2014, the parents of the two boys had moved a local court seeking transfer of the probe to the CBI. However, the plea was turned down by the court.