A fast track court of Rajkot reserved its order till June 27 on anticipatory bail application filed by five Asaram sadhaks in the Amrut Prajapati murder case after prosecution and defence completed their arguments on Thursday.
Ramchandra Thakkar, Vikas Khemka, Meghji Patel, Kanti Patel and Ajay Shah, five of the six Asaram sadhaks named by Prajapati in his dying declaration (DD), had moved the court on June 9 seeking protection against their possible arrest in the murder case.
Their advocate had argued at earlier hearings that all the five were not present at the crime scene nor were they involved in any conspiracy of the murder. In his DD, Prajapati has said that he saw four of the six persons near the crime scene after the shooting. Prajapati, a prime witness in the alleged rape case against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, was shot at on May 23 at his Rajkot clinic and succumbed June 10 in Ahmedabad.
The applicants’ advocate submitted to the court of additional sessions judge Bharat Upadhyay that Khemka was on his way back from Delhi to Ahmedabad when Prajapati was shot at in Rajkot on May 23 and produced a railway ticket. He said that Meghji Patel was attending a funeral that day and also submitted photographs of the occasion. Kanti Patel was attending a religious discourse while Shah was in Ahmedabad and also submitted call detail records as alibi.
However, assistant public prosecutor (APP) Dilip Mehta opposed the bail application saying Prajapati’s murder was part of a larger conspiracy to eliminate six former Asaram aides who had fallen out with him and were now giving evidence in sexual assault cases filed against the godman and his son Narayan Sai. He drew the court’s attention to two attacks on such witnesses in Surat and one in Ahmedabad before Prajapati’s murder.
“The railway ticket does not have details as to when reservation was sought and it bears only “Vikas” as the traveller’s name. Similarly, it is quite uncommon in our society to take photographs at funerals,” Mehta said, raising doubts over authenticity of alibis presented by the applicants.
But the defense lawyer sought to refute the APP’s claims saying a copy of voter’s identification card was attached with the railway ticket and that it was not a crime to photograph last rites of an individual.
Alluding to acid attack on another former Asaram aide in Surat in March this year, the prosecutor said that Surat police had recovered a piece of paper from residence of one Kishor Bodke mentioning six, including Prajapati as targets. Bodke, who was arrested in the acid attack case, had told police that the list was prepared by one Punit and two others. Prajapati’s murder, the prosecutor argued, was part of this conspiracy.
However, the defence lawyer countered the argument saying the five were not the ones who gave orders to attack Prajapati nor does the prosecution affidavit, filed by investigating officer, expressly mention that the assailant fired at Prajapati on their orders. He also pointed out that all the accused in the three attacks on witnesses had been released on bail before May 23.
But Mehta concluded that since Asaram and Narna Sai were in jail, the five were de facto heads of various trusts of the godman and therefore responsible for attacks on former sadhaks. “If the five are given protection against arrest, it is likely they will attack the remaining two persons on their hit-list and investigation in the present case will be hampered,” he said.
After hearing arguments of both sides, the court reserved its order on the application till June 27.