A Gandhinagar-based magisterial court on Tuesday remanded self-styled godman Asaram in police custody for five days till October 19 in connection with a rape complaint lodged against him and seven others by a 33-year-old woman from Surat. The court passed the order in this regard while partially allowing a remand application of a Special Investigation Team (SIT),formed to probe the case,in which the latter had sought Asarams custody for 14 days.
Asaram was arrested by the Gujarat Police on Monday after securing his custody from Rajasthan. He was lodged in Jodhpur Central Jail in connection with a case of sexual assault on a minor girl.
Asaram was produced before the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate V A Budhdha on Tuesday. Seeking Asarams custody for 14 days,an inspector of the SIT moved a three-page remand application. In its application,the SIT stated that there were many inmates of his Ahmedabad-based ashram who have been named by the complainant as accused,but whose full names or whereabouts are not known,and Asarams interrogation was necessary to ascertain their identity. The police said that they would have to put Asaram through certain medical tests and theres a need to collect scientific evidence with the help of the Forensic Science Laboratory.
Asaram is accused of raping the complainant repeatedly between 2001 and 2007 near his ashram in Ahmedabad. Seven persons including his wife and daughter have been named as accused who abetted the alleged crime.
Asarams lawyer B M Gupta opposed the remand application,arguing that no such alleged incident took place and Asaram did not know the complainant. He argued that women are not permitted at Shanti Vatika,where the offence was allegedly committed.
The SIT chief said that they would request the state government to provide another special prosecutor to make a water-tight case against Asaram. Looking at the sensitivity of the case,we will request the state government for another special prosecutor to assist us in the case against Asaram, said Joint Commissioner of Police (Sector-I) J K Bhatt. Asaram was arrested in the case late at night. He was questioned before being taken to the court. He has identified the girl saying that he knows both the victims and they were staying in his ashram. However,he has denied that he got into any such act with them. We will thoroughly interrogate him in our custody, Bhatt added.
Asaram was brought to Ahmedabad from Jodhpur by air via Mumbai. He was escorted by a team of seven to eight policemen,led by DCP Manoj Ninama,in a Jet Airways aircraft that reached Ahmedabad at 6.30 pm on Monday.
The situation inside the aircraft reportedly turned violent,leading to breach of aviation rules. Before the flight took off from Mumbai,Asarams followers reportedly entered the aircraft and blocked seats. They protested against his arrest. Asaram was made to sit in the last two seats of the Economy class with police personnel. Sources said his followers got into a verbal duel with mediapersons who had boarded the flight for coverage. Around 30 followers,who had blocked the seats,tried to break cameras and fought with the airline staff.
However,Bhatt said,There was no breach of security inside the aircraft. The airline staff were there to handle the chaos if it happened. Ninama handled issues related to Asaram ashram in 2008,during the ashram boys case when violent protests broke out. He was capable of handling the case again and hence,was chosen to get Asarams custody.
Ninama said,I was not in charge of the airline or airport security. My duty was to bring Asaram safely to Ahmedabad and my team and I ensured that. I couldnt leave the accused and handle the chaos in aircraft.