The Supreme Court Monday dismissed the bail plea of self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu in connection with a sexual assault case lodged against him in Gujarat. A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government, that the trial in the case was going on and 210 witnesses were yet to be examined. The bench, while dismissing the bail plea, said the lower court will proceed with the trial and will not be influenced by the prima facie observations given by the Gujarat High Court earlier while dismissing Asaram's plea.
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.
Earlier, a Jodhpur court had rejected self-styled godman Asaram's interim bail plea. Asaram is serving a life term sentence in the Jodhpur central jail for raping a minor girl. A Jodhpur court in Rajasthan had in April convicted Asaram Bapu and two of his four associates in a 2013 rape case.
A special Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Court, which was set up in the Jodhpur jail where Asaram was lodged, ruled that the ‘self-styled’ godman raped a 16-year-old girl in 2013 at his ashram in the outskirts of the city.
The court sentenced Asaram to life imprisonment and awarded 20 years each in jail to two of his associates - Sanchita alias Shilpi and Sharad Chandra. The court, however, had acquitted two of his associates Prakash and Sava Ram Hethvadiya in the rape case.
Fearing an outbreak of violence that may follow the verdict, the security has been tightened across the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana where Asaram has thousands of followers.
Asaram, in jail since August 31, 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.
After the conviction, the self-styled godman could face a minimum of 10 years imprisonment or a maximum of life sentence, according to prosecution lawyers.