The bail plea of self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, accused of allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl, was rejected on Wednesday by a Jodhpur court after the prosecution raised strong objection to setting him free.
The District and Sessions Judge (Rural) Manoj Kumar Vyas dismissed the bail plea after two days of hearing arguments by Asaram's counsel K K Manan and perusing prosecution's detailed reply.
The court rejected the defense counsel's arguments raised over the first information report, medical report and statement of the girl who was sexually assaulted, Additional Advocate Geneal Anand Purohit told reporters.
Seventy-two-year-old Asaram was sent to jail on Monday after he was remanded in 14-day judicial custody by a court in Jodhpur. Asaram was arrested in Indore following an FIR lodged by the victim that she was sexually assaulted by him.
Asaram's counsel alleged that the police had worked under the pressure of media and prepared FIR in a hurry. He contended that the FIR against Asaram does not stand, as there are several lacunae in it. He has been booked under sections 376, 342, 506 and 509 of the IPC, section 8 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act in connection with the alleged assault.
The defence claimed that the victim was not minor as was being claimed and in fact was an adult and so the charges under POSCO against Asaram also do not stand.
Asaram was arrested amid high drama on the intervening night of Saturday-Sunday in Indore and brought here on Monday for interrogation. He has denied the charges. He has cleared a potency test conducted on him at the SN Medical College in Jodhpur.
To recreate the incident, police had also also taken to his Manai Ashram, about 30 km from Jodhpur, where the girl was allegedly sexually assaulted.
Opposing the bail plea, the prosecution said the ongoing probe in the case will be affected if he was freed. If let off on bail Asaram will try to influence the investigations as he had already tried to influence the police, it told the court.
Police claimed that Asaram's supporters have threatened officers handling the case and even tried to bribe the cops who had shown up to arrest him, a charge denied by the self-styled spiritual preacher.
A threatening letter apparently faxed from UP was received by Jodhpur Deputy Commissioner of Police A P Lamba who is heading the probe in the case, the court was informed.
According to the police, Asaram's medical report clearly showed that he had lied about being unwell to evade arrest. It also contended that Asaram clearing the potency test showed that he was capable of having sexually assaulted the girl.
"Points made by the prosecution in its reply have been accepted by the court and the victim's statements have been considered by the court too as recorded in the FIR," Purohit said.
The defence submitted that the girl was an adult but the court accepted date of birth certificate of the victim made availabe by the prosecution, and found her a minor, he said. "There was no change in FIR either as demanded by the defence lawyer. The important section 376 of IPC dealing with rape charge was also considered and maintained by the court," he said.
Two other accused in the case Shilpi (warden) and Sharad (caretaker of the ashram) were still missing or absconding, he said. Purohit also commended the media role in the case. After the judgment, Asaram's another counsel Jagmal Choudhary told reporters that he would move an appeal in the high court against the bail rejection.