An Indian court has found Asaram Bapu, a spiritual leader who has founded hundreds of ashrams in India, guilty of raping a teenage girl and sentenced him to life in prison.
The case was later transferred to Jodhpur, where the crime had taken place, and Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to the western Rajasthan town.
The case dates from August 2013, when the 16-year-old girl accused the preacher of sexually assaulting her at his ashram in Jodhpur, about 335 km (210 miles) from the state capital of Jaipur. In the decades since, he has built up a vast religious empire that includes 400 ashrams, or religious schools, across India, as well as numerous global outreach programs. The trial court neglected 6 applications, while Rajasthan high Court 3 and Supreme Court refused the other 3.
He has been jailed for life. His lawyer said they would be appealing the sentence.
"We have won this fight as Asaram will not be able to come out of jail", he said.
Followers of Asaram attend a special prayer inside his ashram in Ahmedabad for his acquittal before a Jodhpur court convicted him of raping a teenager.
Asaram was arrested in 2013 after a case of sexual assault was filed by the parents of the girl, both Asaram's followers. Also, it is huge win and justice for the victim because people like Asaram are destroying the faith and using it against the humanity against us. Two more were acquitted.
The Home Ministry said that tight security was given to three states, Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan to avoid violence after the judgement. The godman and his son-cumsuccessor are also being probed by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department for money laundering and tax evasion.
In her testimony, recorded a few days after she left the ashram, the survivor told the police that Sirumalani had warned her that her family would be in grave danger if she told them what happened.
Many of Asaram's followers had allegedly threatened senior police officers such as Ajay Pal Lamba who investigated the case. The case is going on againt Asaram in Gandhinagar court.
The police had also made elaborate arrangements to check influx of Asaram's supporters to the city through trains or by road.
Born Asumal Harpalani, Asaram became a guru in the 1960s. Local reports suggest that he spent his childhood doing odd jobs - selling tea, transporting pilgrims on his pony cart and bootlegging - before he claimed to be an ascetic and set up his ashrams in the 1970s.
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