A Delhi court Friday stayed the release of a book on Asaram, written by the IPS officer who led the Rajasthan Police team that arrested the self-styled godman on charges of rape seven years ago.
The court of Additional District Judge R L Meena stayed the release of ‘Gunning for the Godman: The True Story Behind Asaram Bapu’s Conviction’ till the next hearing on September 30, following an appeal by Sanchita Gupta, a co-accused in the rape case that led to Asaram being jailed for life.
The court’s order came a day before the book was scheduled to be released virtually.
Gupta’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, told the court that the book “claims to be a true story, however, is at variance with the trial record and most importantly interfered with Sanchita’s appeal which was sub-judice and where the Hon’ble High Court of Rajasthan had already suspended her sentence”.
In its order, the court said that it is “of the considered view that plaintiff’s reputation is at stake and her reputation would suffer irreparable harm, if the ex parte injunction is not granted, particularly when the said book is to be published 05.09.2020”.
Therefore, it said, the “defendants are restrained from publishing the said book…till the next date of hearing” on September 30. It also restrained publisher Harper Collins, Amazon and Flipkart from publishing or selling the book till then.
The book has been written by Ajay Pal Lamba, who is now Additional Commissioner of Police, Jaipur, and co-authored by Sanjeev Mathur. Harper Collins did not comment but Lamba described the development as “very unfortunate”.
“The book is based on facts, which are in the public domain. I have only compiled those facts and turned them into a book,” Lamba, 42, told The Indian Express.
The book highlights the investigation in the case and how a team led by the 2005-batch IPS officer arrested Asaram in 2013 within 10 days of receiving a rape complaint from Delhi Police.
In April 2018, a Special Court in Jodhpur found Asaram guilty of raping a minor girl and charged him under various IPC sections, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. He was sentenced to life imprisonment until death and a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
The co-accused, Gupta, was a warden of the hostel where the minor girl was staying in 2013. A trial court in Rajasthan had found her guilty of hatching a “criminal conspiracy with accused Asaram and sent the prosecutrix to him so that he could sexually assault her”.
Gupta later filed an appeal before Rajasthan High Court, which suspended her sentence till final disposal of the appeal.
On Friday, Gupta’s lawyer argued that “when the sentence had been suspended, Sanchita was entitled to presumption of innocence…it was completely possible that the High Court of Rajasthan could order a re-examination of witnesses or even a retrial and in such a circumstance, the publication of the Book in its present form could not be allowed”.
The court was told that on August 11, excerpts from the book were published on the website Scroll, which has also been made a respondent in the case along with its editor-in-chief.
Gupta’s petition stated that the excerpts “show how the Book portrays the Plaintiff in a poor light which has lowered the Plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of the people at large…”.
Gupta’s petition alleged that the contents of the book were “concocted” and “scandalous”, and an attempt to “garner cheap publicity on the back of the name of the Plaintiff and more importantly her co-accused in the wake of the Book’s launch…”.
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