Supreme Court Refuses To Suspend Life-Sentence Of Asaram Bapu, Calling His Crime As Non-Ordinary

Asumal Harpalani was born in the year 1941 in the village of Bernai in present-day Pakistan, wherein he migrated to Ahmedabad, Gujarat after the Partition of British India; subsequently, he established his first ashram in 1972 in the town of Motera, Gujarat, along the banks of the Sabarmati river. Over the years, he had amassed a following of 40 million across 19 nations. In 2002, he was accused of raping a woman in Surat, Gujarat, wherein the witnesses to the alleged crime have been allegedly attacked under mysterious circumstances over the years. In 2013, a couple from Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh accused Asaram Bapu of sexually assaulting their daughter. The daughter had arrived at one of Bapu’s ashrams in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh for spiritual lessons, wherein the couple was called by the authorities of the said ashram for informing them about the alleged influence of supernatural power over their daughter; subsequently, the said authorities asked the couple to take their daughter to Jodhpur to meet Asaram Bapu himself for treatment of the girl.

The family had arrived at the Jodhpur ashram on August 14, wherein the girl was taken to Bapu’s personal room on the night of August 15 under the pretext of “curing” her while her parents were asked to stay outside the room. Official investigation revealed that the parents were asked to chant the prayers of Asaram Bapu whilst the Godman raped their daughter in his room, wherein he allegedly asked the girl to not reveal the sexual acts performed on her by him to her parents under the threat of the Godman killing her parents; however, the girl confronted her parents the next day. Asaram Bapu was arrested from Indore, Madhya Pradesh; subsequently, he was brought to Jodhpur on September 3, 2013. He was punished with life imprisonment by the Jodhpur High Court on April 25, 2018, while his accomplices Sharad and Shilpi were punished with 20 years in prison.

Asaram Bapu had appealed before the Rajasthan High Court where he sought to have his sentence suspended for two months to avail a particular course of ayurvedic treatment at the Prakash Deep Institute of  Ayurved in Haridwar, Uttarakhand for the treatment of his ailments; however, the court dismissed the appeal, wherein the order of the court was appealed in the Supreme Court of India on June 4, 2021; subsequently, the Supreme Court ordered a response from the State. The State responded by saying that Asaram Bapu was receiving intensive care at the jail, wherein the state stated that Bapu was fit and stable, wherein the appeal was being made to change his venue of custody under the pretext of medical treatment; additionally, the counsel for the state added that the repeated appeals before the courts of law by Asaram Bapu under the pretext of medical treatment is with malicious intent to allegedly postpone the pending trials against himself. It is worth noting that Asaram Bapu was shifted to an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Jodhpur after testing positive for COVID-19.

A three-judge divisional bench of Justice Indira Banerjee, Justice Ramasubramanian and Justice Bela Trivedi heard a petition by Senior Advocate R. Basant, appearing for Asaram Bapu, asking for a temporary suspension of his client’s life sentence on medical grounds, wherein Senior Advocate Manish Singhvi, appearing for the state, responded by saying that the accused was receiving the best possible medical care in the jail itself. The bench rejected the appeal: “Sorry, it is not an ordinary crime,” wherein the court directed the authorities to provide the best, reasonable ayurvedic treatment  to Asaram Bapu in jail.  

The counsel for Asaram Bapu argued, “Mercy is all that I’m asking for.” Justice Indira Banerjee added, “Sorry, in this sort of a situation, taking an overall view, it’s not an ordinary crime at all.” Senior Advocate Manish Singhvi argued that the Jodhpur Jail is one of the few jails in India where the prisoners are provided with not only allopathic but also ayurvedic treatment.

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