A court in Gandhinagar on Tuesday sentenced self-styled godman Asaram Bapu to life imprisonment in a rape case filed by a former woman disciple in 2013 after the prosecution argued for the strictest punishment saying he is a “habitual offender”.
Additional sessions judge DK Soni also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Asaram
which will be paid as compensation to the victim.
The defence said the order will be challenged in the Gujarat High Court.
The 81-year-old godman is currently serving a life term in a Jodhpur jail in another case of raping a minor girl at his ashram in Rajasthan in 2013.
He was produced in the Gandhinagar court via video link when the judge passed the order on Tuesday.
A day earlier, the court had convicted Asaram in the case registered in 2013 for raping a woman disciple, who hailed from Surat, on several occasions from 2001 to 2006 when she was living at his ashram at Motera near Ahmedabad.
Six other accused in the case, including Asaram’s wife Laxmiben, their daughter, and four disciples who were accused of aiding and abetting the crime, were acquitted for want of evidence, the prosecution had said.
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“The court on Tuesday sentenced Asaram Bapu to life imprisonment under sections 376 (2)(C) for rape and 377 (Unnatural offences) of the Indian Penal Code. He was also ordered to pay Rs 50,000 towards the compensation to the victim. In the remaining sections, he was sentenced to one year in jail under each count and slapped with a nominal fine,” said special public prosecutor RC Kodekar.
Besides IPC sections 376 (2) (C) and 377, Asaram was convicted under sections 342 (wrongful detention), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 357 (assault), and 506 (criminal intimidation).
The prosecution had sought life imprisonment for Asaram on the ground that he was a “habitual offender,” being convicted and jailed in a similar rape case of a girl at his Jodhpur ashram in Rajasthan.
Arguing against the life sentence, the defence lawyer said they had no objection if Asaram was handed a 10-year imprisonment, Kodekar added.
“There is a provision of maximum life imprisonment or 10 years in jail for the offence for which Asaram has been convicted by the court. But, we have argued that he has already been convicted in another similar case in Jodhpur, and hence he is a habitual offender,” Kodekar told reporters outside the court after the conclusion of the arguments earlier in the day.
He said the prosecution had submitted before the court that Asaram should get the strictest punishment for the way he kept the victim captive, raped and sodomised her and forced her to remain confined in the ashram.
The hearing of the case was held in-camera.