After over a four-and-half year of trial, a special Jodhpur court on Wednesday convicted and sentenced for life self-proclaimed godman Asaram for raping a minor schoolgirl inside his ashram in Jodhpur in 2013. While Asaram was given life-long jail term, his accomplices Sharad and Shilpi were sentenced to 20 years in jail by the court which was set up inside the Jodhpur Central Jail to prevent a Ram Rahim verdict-like violence by the 77-year-old ‘spiritual’ guru’s followers.
The moment Special Judge Madhusudan Sharma's pronounced the verdict, Asaram, whose original name is Asumal Sirumalani, broke down inside the court chanting god’s name. Asaram, who will wear prisoner jersey number 130 in Jodhpur jail, has been behind bars since 2013. His subsequent bail pleas have been rejected by both the Rajasthan High Court and Supreme Court.
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Asaram’s lawyers said they will appeal against the verdict in the high court. However, legal experts believe that chances of relief for him are bleak.
Owner of Rs 10,000 crore empire
Asaram owed his immense wealth to buildings, stocks and shares, a lucrative money-lending practice and by selling Ayurvedic products and religious booklets, investigators had said after his arrest. Documents seized by the police from his ashram in the Motera area here had revealed that he also owned vast tracts of land.
Watch: From 'angel' to 'demon' - a timeline of Asaram's fall from grace
When trouble started to pour for ‘Bapu’
In 2008, two young cousins Dipesh and Abhishek Vaghela who lived in Asaram's gurukul in Motera near Ahmedabad were found dead on the riverbed near his ashram. Their parents had alleged that they were killed in the ashram where they claimed black magic was practised.
The state CID had in 2009 booked seven followers of Asaram in the case.
However, Asaram’s actual fall from grace came in 2013 when he was arrested for a minor teenager's rape.
After that, two Surat-based sisters also accused him and his son Narayan Sai of sexual assault. The police on October 6, 2013, registered complaints filed by the two sisters - one against Asaram and the other against Sai - of rape, sexual assault, illegal confinement and other charges. The case is being heard at a court in Gandhinagar.
‘Justice has been done’
“Even if I die now, I will have no regret as we have got justice for our daughter,” these were the words of the father of the girl who had filed rape case against Asaram as he expressed his contentment over the court’s verdict.
"We are very happy with the punishment given by the court to Asaram. Now we do not have any fear as the administration and the court are with us. We had always stated that we have faith in the judiciary and it has been proved correct. My daughter is very courageous and it is because of her courage that we have managed to ensure that the 'dhongi baba' (fake godman) got punishment for his wrongdoings,” a visibly relieved father of the victim told the media.
(With inputs from agencies)
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