Police will slap fresh charges on self-styled godman Asaram for allegedly submitting forged documents seeking release from jail, the Supreme Court said on Monday, tightening the noose around the 77-year-old accused of sexually assaulting a minor in one of his ashrams.
The top court also slapped a fine of Rs one lakh on him, besides turning down his fresh plea for bail on health grounds.
Asaram is in jail since 2013 after he was named in two rape cases filed by police in Jodhpur, where he had allegedly assaulted the minor girl. Asaram, who has lakhs of followers, denies the charges.
At least two people who were among several prosecution witnesses in the case have been murdered in separate incidents while some others have allegedly received death threats.
Rationalists and activists say that Asaram’s case is symbolic of how self-styled seers and godmen dupe lakhs of gullible people in India where they are venerated as representatives of god.
A bench led by chief justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar referred to a report by a medical board of the All India Medical Sciences (AIIMS) which had said evaluation of Asaram’s prostate ailment remained incomplete because of his refusal to undergo required tests.
Asaram’s lawyer had filed a letter purported to have been issued by the superintendent of Jodhpur jail.
The letter, which stated that Asaram was medically unfit, apparently procured through an RTI application from the jail superintendent.
The superintendent, however, denied ever receiving the RTI query or giving any response.
Asaram’s counsel later admitted the letter was forged but blamed the person authorised to pursue the case for it. The counsel’s apology was also rejected by the court.
Asaram wanted immediate bail for travelling to Kerala to receive Ayurvedic treatment, pleading he was not getting adequate medical attention in jail. The Rajasthan government said he was given the best medical facilities in custody.
Besides taking note of the killing and threatening of prosecution witnesses, the bench also hauled up Asaram’s legal team for cross-examining the investigation officer more than 100 times.
“We can’t overlook that trial was unnecessarily prolonged and there were attacks on prosecution witnesses, two of whom have died,” the court said.
The apex court had in October sought the Centre’s response and five states on a plea seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into alleged murder of children through black magic and attacks on ten witnesses in the rape cases against Asaram.