Asaram Bapu, the self-styled godman, was on Wednesday convicted of raping a minor girl in 2013 by the Jodhpur Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Court. Two of aides were also pronounced guilty in a judgement which was read out inside the Jodhpur Central Jail where Asaram is currently locked.
Asaram, 77, was booked under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for raping the minor girl in Jodhpur's Manai village. While the quantum of punishment for him is still awaited and expected to be announced on Wednesday itself, reactions on his conviction have started to pour in.
The survivor's lawyer has termed the verdict as a "great day for justice" while her father said, "Asaram is convicted, we have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now, I hope he will get strict punishment. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice."
"This is a victory for all such victims and a clear message has been sent out to all the perpetrators of such crimes that you cannot escape the wrath of the law. The victim and her father have really been brave and kudos to them," said Utsav Bains, the victims' lawyer.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Ashok Gehlot told ANI, "The time has come when people should be able to differentiate between the actual saints and the frauds, as this creates a bad image of the country in the international arena."
However, Congress has chosen Asaram's conviction to sharpen its attack on Narendra Modi by circulating a video of Modi's association with him. In a video clip posted on Congress' official Twitter handle shows Modi seeking Asaram's blessings.
— Congress (@INCIndia) April 25, 2018
But actor Farhan Akhtar has spoken against Congress' act and requested people to give the prime minister the benefit of doubt for not knowing of Asaram's sins earlier.
So, Asaram is a child rapist. And he has been found guilty. Good. But can people please stop sharing images of him with PM Modi. Patronising him before he was exposed to be a pervert is no crime. Let’s be fair and give him the benefit of doubt that he, like us, did not know. — Farhan Akhtar (@FarOutAkhtar) April 25, 2018
CPM politburo member Brinda Karat too welcomed the judgement. "I welcome the judgement. In this case the witnesses were attacked, one was killed. The victim and her father were threatened, they were forced to leave their home. They were displaced. But today their fight for justice has been vindicated. What is worse is that this godman used the 'bhakti' of these followers to abuse their beliefs", Karat said.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said despite the child being a minor, the new ordinance that allows courts to invoke the death penalty in such cases will not be applicable in this case. "We welcome this judgement, more so because the perpetrator of this crime is a very powerful person who held a position of trust, the devotees go to these godmen when they are in trouble and the guru must protect them and not sexually assault them. The ordinance will have a prospective effect, not a retrospective effect," said NCPCR chairperson Stuti Kacker.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Apr 25, 2018 17:19 PM