The Rajasthan High Court today allowed a plea by the state police for pronouncement of trial court verdict in a rape case against self-styled ‘god-man’ Asaram on premises of Jodhpur central jail, where he is lodged, and directed the authorities to deploy adequate security personnel to ensure that his followers do no create any law and order problem in the city. The high court directed the court of special judge SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Jodhpur to conduct proceedings for pronouncement of judgment in the case against Asaram on the jail premises on the fixed date of April 25.
A bench of justices Gopal Krishna Vyas and Ramchandra Singh Jhala also directed the Superintendent of Jodhpur Central Jail and the police and district administration to make all arrangements for the proceedings in the central jail. “It cannot be said that (Asaram’s) followers will not create hurdle or unhealthy atmosphere which may create not only hardship and inconvenience to the public at large of Jodhpur city, but also law and order problem,” the court said in its order.
The advocates will be permitted to remain present at the time of pronouncement of judgment. The Jodhpur police commissioner and district administration officials were also directed by the court to make all arrangements to provide protection to people and properties in Jodhpur city and to ensure that no inconvenience and hurdle are created by the followers of the accused.
Adequate police force will be deployed for the purpose of law and order situation in Jodhpur on the judgment day on April 25, it said. Police commissioner Ashok Rathore had said that the force had requested that the judgement should not be pronounced in court premises as it may lead to clashes between security personnel and the godman’s followers.
Last year, over 40 persons were killed and scores injured during violence in Haryana that erupted following the conviction of self-styled ‘godman’ Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Singh in a rape case by a Panchkula CBI court. “We have moved an application requesting the pronouncement of judgement in the case in the jail’s court in view of the threat to law and order situation in the city,” Additional Advocate General S K Vyas said yesterday.
In its application, the police had stated that there would be a huge presence of Asaram’s followers in the city on the judgment day, and that they might indulge in vandalism after the pronouncement in the case. It also noted in their plea that such a step was also necessary for the safety and security of Asaram and the general public.
The special SC/ST trial court had completed the final arguments in the case on April 7. A teenage girl had accused Asaram of sexual assault at his ashram in Manai village. The girl, who belonged to Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, was a student living in the ashram.
Asaram, who is in jail since 31 August, 2013, was charged under relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the counsel said. If convicted, Asaram faces maximum sentence of 10 years, he said. He is also facing a rape case in Gujarat.
Earlier, the apex court had refused to grant bail to Asaram on various grounds in the two sexual assault cases lodged in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Two Surat-based sisters had lodged separate complaints against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement, among other charges.