Delhi High Court reserves order on plea to vacate stay on publication of book on Asaram Babu

In the suit, Sanchita Gupta alias Shilpi, who was sentenced to 20 years in the Asaram rape case, had argued that allowing the publication of the book would prejudice her appeal and run counter to her rights under Article 21 of the Constitution

Press Trust of India September 09, 2020 19:09:32 IST
Delhi High Court reserves order on plea to vacate stay on publication of book on Asaram Babu

File image of Asaram. PTI

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday reserved its order on a plea by publisher HarperCollins seeking vacation of an interim stay on the publication of a book on self-styled Godman Asaram Bapu titled Gunning for the Godman: The True Story Behind Asaram's Conviction.

Justice Najmi Waziri said, "I'll deliver the order in a couple of days. Let's see how it goes."

The high court heard arguments in the matter on Tuesday and Wednesday by the counsel for the publisher and the plaintiff woman, a co-convict in the Asaram rape case on whose plea the distribution of book was stayed by the trial court.

During the hearing, the high court suggested them to find a midway solution to the issue, like publishing a disclaimer as the start of the book.

The judge also orally said that 5,000 copies have already been published and the book cannot be undone now.

However, the counsel for the woman, Sanchita Gupta alias Shilpi, said he has taken instructions from his client and the court may decide the matter on merits.

The publisher has approached the high court challenging the trial court's 4 September ex-parte interim injunction order restraining the publication of the book.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the publisher, had said: "This is very serious. All the books have already been distributed to the distributors. It has become a trend in the last few years that they move court on the eve of release of a book and get an ex-parte stay."

He had said the plaintiff woman has not come to court with clean hands and she had not annexed a copy of the judgement, in the rape case, before the trial court which could have then seen whether objections raised by her have any basis in the law.

He had added that the book was written on the basis of the record of the case and it was a story of an investigating officer of the case which was based on the evidence recorded during the trial and the Godman along with the plaintiff was convicted.

However, the counsel for the woman opposed the appeal saying the contents of the book was not found in record and if it is allowed to be published, it will cause her irreparable loss.

Senior advocate Devdutt Kamat, appearing for the woman, had said there was defamatory material published in the book. Amazon and Flipkart were deleted as parties after they submitted that they were not necessary parties to the case and they will abide by the court's order to be passed in the suit.

The book, Gunning for the Godman: The True Story Behind Asaram Bapu's Conviction, is authored by Ajay Lamba, Additional Commissioner of Police, Jaipur and Sanjiv Mathur, and was scheduled to be released on 5 September.

On 4 September, an additional district judge had stayed the publication of the book on the ground that the appeal against the conviction in the rape case was sub-judice before the Rajasthan High Court.

In April 2018, Asaram was sentenced to life term in the 2013 case of rape of a minor firl. Co-convicts Sharatchandra and Sanchita alias Shilpi were sentenced to 20 years in prison and co-accused Shiva and Prakash were acquitted.

In the suit, Sanchita had argued that allowing the publication of the book would prejudice her appeal and run counter to her rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.

It was claimed that the book was a one-sided narration of events and did not even follow the trial record.

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