Coming straight to the core issue, a Jodhpur court on April 25 convicted self-styled godman Asaram of raping a teenager in August 2013 and sentenced him to life in prison until death. It is the maximum punishment prescribed by the law for the offence. Judge Madhusudan Sharma also convicted two other accused, Shilpi and Sharatchandra, and sentenced them to 20 years in jail. Two other accused – Prakash and Shiva, alias Sawaram Hethwadia, were acquitted. Asaram was given 10 years rigorous imprisonment for trafficking of minor (section 370(4) of IPC), one year for wrongful confinement (section 342 IPC), life imprisonment until death for rape (section 376(2)(f) of IPC) and six months of simple imprisonment (section 23 of Juvenile Justice Act). In addition to the prison terms, the court ordered a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to be paid to the victim.
: Asaram rapes the minor at his ashram in Jodhpur. The girl came to his ashram after she fainted at school and her hostel warden told her parents she was possessed by an “evil spirit”.
: The survivor tells her parents about the incident and they lodge a complaint at a police station in New Delhi.
: The police register a ‘Zero FIR’, or first information report, at after a medical exam and the statement of the victim is recorded. A ‘Zero FIR’ can be registered at any police station and can later be shifted to the police station that has jurisdiction over a case.
: On the basis of the ‘Zero FIR’, the case is transferred to Jodhpur. Police register an FIR against Asaram under Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and other Sections of the Indian Penal Code and Juvenile Justice Act.
: Jodhpur police arrest Asaram and take him to Central Jail. The police arrest him after his supporters clashed with television news crews.
: Another rape case is filed against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai on the complaint of two sisters from Surat. They allege they were raped during their stay in an ashram in the mid-2000s.
: The police file a charge-sheet in the Jodhpur case. The charges include those of sexual assault and illegally confining a minor. The police also charge four others accused – Sharad Chandra, Shipli Gupta, Shiva and Prakash.
: A trial court takes cognizance of the charges against four accused, including Asaram.
: The trial court frames charges against Asaram and three other accused.
: Trial begins in the case with testimony of prosecution witnesses.
: A witness in the case dies because of serious from being shot in Rajkot on . An Ayurveda expert, he was a key Asaram aide for 15 years, but later parted ways.
: A witness named Rahul K Sachan is attacked with a knife by one of Asaram’s followers at a court complex in Jodhpur and stabbed.
: An aide to Asaram and his son, Narayan Sai, is attacked in Panipat. He is a second witness in the second rape case. He told a court that there was a network that would “supply girls” to Asaram.
: A witness in the first case is shot at in Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur.
: The prosecution finishes recording statements of 44 witnesses and exhibits 160 documents.
: The defence records statements of 31 witnesses and exhibits 225 documents
April 7: The final arguments in the case are completed and the special Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes court in Jodhpur reserves its judgment for April 25.
As it turned out, the girl’s father said he was “satisfied” with the verdict given that “fighting the case almost changed our lives”. He further also revealed that, “I am satisfied with the judgment because it has done justice to my struggle of four years, seven months and 23 days. During this period, fighting the case almost changed our lives. There was a lot of pressure not to pursue the case. We were regularly harassed by associates of Asaram. I made several complaints to the police and lodged an FIR. My family, including my daughter, is satisfied with the judgment today. She is now in college.”
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.