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Asaram Bapu sentenced to life for assault on Surat woman disciple

GANDHINAGAR, Feb 1: Godman Asaram was sentenced to life on Tuesday by a court in Gandhinagar in a case of sexual assault on a woman disciple filed in 2013. A fine of Rs 50,000 was also imposed on him to be paid as compensation to the victim.

The controversial godman is currently serving a jail term in Jodhpur in another assault case. His appearance in the court in Gandhinagar was by video- conferencing.

A woman of Surat had filed the case of assault and illegal confinement against Asaram Bapu and seven others, including his wife, son and daughter, in the matter in October 2013. One of the accused died during the pendency of the trial. The chargesheet was filed in 2014.

As per the FIR filed at the Chandkheda police station in Ahmedabad, she was living at his ashram in the city from 2001 to 2006 when the crime was committed.

Sessions court judge DK Soni had convicted the godman on Monday and reserved his order on the quantum of sentence for Tuesday. The godman was found guilty under sections 376 (2)(C) for rape, 377 (unnatural offences), 342, 354, 357 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code. The court acquitted all others in the case for want of evidence.

The judge stated that he had committed a “very serious crime” and should be punished “to the fullest extent” to prevent the exploitation by religious people.

“The crime against the accused has been proved beyond doubt by the prosecution. That the accused has reached an old age and that he is not keeping well cannot be ground for defence. The accused has committed a very serious crime and that there can be no place for sympathy for such a heinous crime. The perpetrator of such a heinous crime cannot be spared to prevent the exploitation of the devout people of the society,” the court said in its order.

“Even in our scriptures, it is said that gods reside where women are given respect. Not only this, it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure the safety of women,” it added.

At the time of the crime, the survivor was about 20 years and Asaram was 62 years.

There were several more cases against Asaram Bapu for which he is currently in jail.

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