Just a few hours before the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday, after he was convicted of rape on Friday on August 25, the Supreme Court questioned the Gujarat government about the delay in the self-styled godman Asaram Bapu's trial in a rape case.
The 76-year-old godman was arrested in 2013 after a teenage devotee accused him of raping her at Ahmedabad Ashram. He has been kept in a prison in Jodhpur in Rajasthan since then.
SC frowns tardy process
A bench comprising justices N V Ramanna and Amitava Roy on Monday took note of the tardy process and said, "Why is there a delay despite the earlier direction for expeditious trial? Why has the victim not been examined so far?"
The bench also questioned the Gujarat government regarding its previous direction in expediting the recording of evidence of prosecution witnesses in the rape complaints lodged by the teenage victim from Ahmadabad and her sister from Surat.
"Why has the victims statement not been recorded in the case so far. She is the most crucial witness in the case," the bench observed.
Pressure on witnesses?
While Asaram was arrested for raping the teenage girl several times when she was staying at his religious retreat in Ahmedabad between 2001 and 2006, his son Narayan Sai was arrested for the rape of the victim's younger sister in Surat between 2002 and 2004.
Amongst the witnesses who await justice is another student, a resident of Shahjahanpur of Uttar Pradesh, who was also raped by Asaram at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur.
The apex court has been asking the government to avoid further delays after many prosecution witnesses were attacked. Until 2015, nine witnesses were attacked, of which three died.
No bail for Asaram
On January 30, the Supreme Court had dismissed the bail application of Asaram.The court had also ordered a new FIR against him and others for filing fake documents in connection with his health to persuade the top court to grant him bail.
Instead, the SC had levied a fine of Rs 1 lakh on Asaram for filing a frivolous bail petition to seek regular bail.