An Indian spiritual guru with millions of followers was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for raping a teenage devotee, his lawyer said.
The verdict was delivered by Special Judge Madhusudhan Sharma in a makeshift court at the Jodhpur Central Jail, where the self-styled godman known as Asaram (Bapu) has been lodged since 2013.
"Asaram (Bapu) has been sentenced for life until death. And two others, including a woman, have been sentenced to 20 years in prison," Rajendra Singh, a lawyer for the defence team told AFP outside the court in western Rajasthan state.
Earlier, quoting top police official, the Indian Express reported that a trial court in Jodhpur on Wednesday held Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl in August 2013.
Security has been heightened across the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana where Asaram has a huge following.The Ministry of Home Affairs Tuesday had asked the three states to deploy additional forces in sensitive areas and ensure law and order is maintained following the judgment.
The chargesheet had named Asaram and four others — Sanchita alias Shilpi, Sharad Chandra alias Sharat Chandra, Prakash and Shiva alias Sava Ram Hethvadiya.
Asaram is charged under sections of the POCSO Act, Juvenile Justice Act and IPC.
The verdict was delivered in the Jodhpur Central Jail as per orders of the Rajasthan High Court. Section 144 has been imposed in the city, preventing assembly of more than four people.
A 16-year-old girl had accused self-styled godman Asaram Bapu of raping her on the intervening night of August 15 and 16, 2013 at an ashram in Jodhpur. Four others — Sanchita alias Shilpi, Sharad Chandra alias Sharat Chandra, Prakash and Shiva alias Sava Ram Hethvadiya — were named in the chargesheet as well. All of the accused are out on bail, except Asaram, who has been lodged in Jodhpur Central Jail since 2013. He has unsuccessfully moved 12 bail applications.
Source: AFP, Indian express