–Report by Ishika Sehgal
Asaram Bapu, who is currently serving a life sentence, has not been granted respite by the Rajasthan High Court. The High Court denied Asaram’s third request for a stay of the sentence in the case of raping a minor. The court ruled that Asaram cannot be granted bail in light of the seriousness of the accusations. The court further noted that two prior requests for sentence suspension made on behalf of Asaram were denied by the court after arguments had been made, albeit somewhat withdrawn. It further mentioned that Asaram is still being held in detention while a comparable offense trial is being held in Gujarat.
The petitioner and a number of other accused are currently being tried in the Court of the Learned Sessions Judge, District of Jodhpur, for offenses under Sections 342, 376(2)(f), 376D, 354A, 370(4), 506, 509/34, 109, and 120B IPC, Sections 23 and 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act, and Sections 5(f)(g)/6, 7/8, and 17 of the POCSO Act. Asaram was convicted of raping a juvenile at an ashram in Jodhpur in 2013 and received a life sentence from a lower court in 2018. In the western Gujarat state, he is also on trial in another rape case.
CONTENTIONS OF APPELLANT
Asaram was represented by Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, accompanied by Adv. Rajesh Inamdar requested that the appellant be released on bail due to his advanced age (about 83 years) and severe medical conditions. He claimed that Asaram should be allowed bail because he has been in detention for a long period of time—nearly 9 years and 7 months. In addition, it was claimed the court’s order summoning Mr. Ajay Pal Lamba to appear as a witness under Section 391 of the Criminal Procedure is also being contested and there is no possibility for the appeal to be heard. Further, the offense for which he has been convicted by the special court cannot be prima facie made out.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
The Public Prosecutor said that the appeal has been scheduled for hearing on numerous occasions and that the defense attorney has been requesting adjournments while challenging the bail. Consequently, the appellant cannot use the cause for delay, according to the experienced Public Prosecutor.
The Gujarat court has repeatedly refused to grant bail to the applicant. The court observed :
“A perusal of the order-sheets of the appeal would indicate that the matter was listed for hearing on more than one
occasions, but adjournments have been sought by the defence for one reason or the other. Two previous applications for suspension of sentences preferred on behalf of the appellant have been dismissed by the court after arguments had been advanced to some extent albeit by way of withdrawal. The appellant continues to be in custody in the trial going on at Gujarat.”
The appeal in the case of Asharam @ Ashumal v. the State of Rajasthan will soon be heard by the court.