Asaram Bapu, after being arrested from his Indore ashram by Jodhpur police, arrives at Jodhpur airport. File photo | Photo: PTI
Gandhinagar: More than nine years after a former disciple of Asaram Bapu lodged a case of rape against him during her earlier stay in his ashram, a court in Gandhinagar on Monday convicted the self-styled godman and is likely to pronounce the sentence on Tuesday.
Sessions court judge DK Soni acquitted six other accused, including Asaram's wife Laxmiben, their daughter, and four disciples who were accused of aiding and abetting the crime, for want of evidence, the prosecution said.
Asaram's lawyer said the session court's order will be challenged in the Gujarat High Court.
Notably, the victim's younger sister was raped and illegally confined by Asaram's son Narayan Sai. Sai was sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in Surat in April 2019 in the rape case filed against him by his former disciple in 2013.
As per the FIR (First Information Report) registered at Chandkheda police station in Ahmedabad on October 6, 2013, against Asaram Bapu and six others, the self-styled godman had raped the woman disciple, who hailed from Surat, on several occasions from 2001 to 2006 when she was living at his ashram at Motera near Ahmedabad before she managed to escape.
A chargesheet was filed in July 2014.
"The court convicted Asaram Bapu under sections 376 2 (C) for rape, 377 (unnatural offences), 342 (Wrongful detention), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 357 (assault) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code," said special public prosecutor RC Kodekar.
The court is likely to pronounce its order on the quantum of the sentence on Tuesday, he said.
The court accepted the prosecution's case against Asaram Bapu but didn't agree that six others, including Asaram's wife and daughter, abetted the crime, he added.
The 81-year-old godman is currently serving a life sentence in a Jodhpur jail for raping a minor girl at his ashram in Rajasthan in 2013.
"The prosecution has succeeded in proving the (Ahmedabad ashram) rape case against Asaram. The court also accepted the argument that the victim faced criminal intimidation -- a reason why there was a delay of several years in the filing of the FIR," Kodekar said.
Asaram's lawyer CB Gupta said the prosecution examined 55 witnesses during the trial that went on for nine-and-a-half years.
He said that the court's order will be challenged in the High Court.
The victim and her sister mustered the courage to come out against the influential spiritual guru and Narayan Sai, who have a huge following and run a network of ashrams in India, after Asaram was arrested by the Rajasthan Police in August 2013.
A court in Jodhpur, on April 25, 2018, sentenced Asaram to life in prison after finding him guilty of raping a minor in his ashram in 2013. His two accomplices were sentenced to 20 years in jail by the court in the same case for their roles.
The Gujarat High Court in December 2021 rejected Asaram's bail plea in the rape case, which he challenged in the Supreme Court.