Five years after he was arrested, a Jodhpur Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe court convicted self styled godman Asaram Bapu and sentenced him to life imprisonment for raping a minor girl.
Two other accused in the case have been given 20 years each in jail, reported ANI.
Asaraam sentenced to life imprisonment by Jodhpur Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Court in a rape case. pic.twitter.com/JevsnIXquL— ANI (@ANI) April 25, 2018
Rest of the two accused Shilpi & Sharad sentenced to 20 years each in jail by Jodhpur Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Court in a rape case. #AsaramCaseVerdict— ANI (@ANI) April 25, 2018
Earlier in the day as the news of his conviction broke, a spokesperson for Asaram said:
We will discuss with our legal team and then decide our future course of action. We have confidence in our judiciary: Neelam Dubey,Asaram spokesperson on Asaram convicted pic.twitter.com/3LIcyuSAmU— ANI (@ANI) April 25, 2018
Asaram had been charged with rape, sexual harassment, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy.
"Nine witnesses had been tampered with. My clients faced intimidation. Now all parties have been pronounced guilty," Manish Vyas, lawyer for the survivors' told HuffPost India. He added that they have demanded a maximum of a life term for Bapu and his associates. "The minimum punishment should at least be seven years in jail," he said.
Vyas has been fighting this case for the past four-and-half years
Father of the survivor told the media that he was happy with the court's verdict, and hoped for strict punishment for the convict.
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: Father of Shahjahanpur victim #AsaramCaseVerdictpic.twitter.com/sUJ3atJJJY— ANI (@ANI) April 25, 2018
Asaram was arrested by the Jodhpur police on August 3, 2013 after allegations of sexually assaulting a minor girl, 16 years old, in his ashram in Jodhpur on the pretext of exorsising her of evil spirits.
The police had said that the girl was taken to the ashram in Manai in August 2013 for a "nightly ritual" where she and Asaram were alone in the room.
She had also alleged that he had threatened the girl and asked her to keep quiet about the incident. The girl told her her parents about the incident two days after the incident after which they filed a complaint against him in Delhi.
The survivors parents had also said that they were continuously threatened by Asaram's followers after his arrest.
The father of the girl had told PTI in 2016, "His men have been calling us consistently and saying that they would be putting in every effort to keep the trial lingering by moving one application after another."
In December 2017, reports said that Asaram's followers had distributed more than 20,000 copies of a magazine in Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur in which they claimed that he was framed.
An FIR was registered within days against Asaram, his daughter Bhagwan Bharti and 10 other followers for criminal intimidation.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the sentence awarded to Asaram by the court.