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Priest who courted Modi convicted of rape

Updated April 26, 2018

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AHMEDABAD: Followers of Asaram Bapu attend a special prayer for his acquittal.—Reuters
AHMEDABAD: Followers of Asaram Bapu attend a special prayer for his acquittal.—Reuters

NEW DELHI: A Hindu priest who courted powerful politicians was convicted on Wednesday for raping a minor girl five years ago, and the Congress party quickly flaunted his picture with Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the caption that “one is known by the company one keeps”.

A special Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe court awarded life imprisonment till death to self-styled godman Asaram Bapu after holding him guilty of raping a minor girl in his ashram at Manai village, near Jodhpur, five years ago.

Two of Asaram’s aides were also convicted and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment each, India Today said.

It said Special Judge Madhusudan Sharma convicted Asaram, 77, under various sections of Indian Penal Code and Juvenile Justice Act, holding him guilty of committing the sexual offence against the teenage girl. The judgement was pronounced in the high-security Central Jail, where Asaram has been lodged since September 1, 2013.

The co-convicts, Sharatchandra, director of a residential school in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, where the victim was studying, and Shilpi, warden of her hostel, were convicted for criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The teenage girl had stated in her complaint that Asaram had called her to a farmhouse of one of his followers in Manai, which was temporarily converted into an ashram, and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013. Following his arrest and judicial custody, Asaram was denied bail 12 times, India Today said.

Asaram has wielded clout with well known leaders, mainly belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BP), and in one of his notable videos was seen dancing with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2018