The Hindu Important Articles 27 April 2018
# Asaram sentenced to jail till death
Self-styled godman convicted of rape of teen at his ashram
A special SC/ST court here on Wednesday convicted self-styled godman Asaram Bapu for rape and sexual assault of a teenage girl in his ashram at Manai village, near here five years ago, and sentenced him to imprisonment for the “rest of his natural life.” Asaram, 77, will serve the jail term till his death.
Among four of his aides who were accused in the case, two were held guilty and sentenced to 20-year rigorous imprisonment each. Special judge Madhusudan Sharma pronounced the judgment in a makeshift court set up inside the high-security Central Jail here amid apprehensions of violence by the godman’s followers.
Asaram was handed down various sentences under Sections 370(4) (trafficking), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The imprisonment till death was awarded under Sections 376 (2)(f) and 376-D (rape) of the IPC.
The godman, who has been lodged in the Central Jail here since September 1, 2013, broke down in the court room after hearing his sentence. The court also imposed a total fine of Rs. 3 lakh on him. His lawyers said they would challenge the judgment in the Rajasthan High Court.
The co-convicts, Sharatchandra, director of a residential school in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, where the victim was studying, and Shilpi, warden of her hostel, were convicted of criminal conspiracy under the IPC, and sentenced to 20 years each in prison and fined Rs. 1 lakh each.
Two other accused, Prakash and Shiva, were acquitted. The court ordered that the total fine of Rs. 5 lakh would be paid to the victim, who belongs to Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
In its 453-page judgment, the special court said there was no reason to disbelieve the victim’s statement. It said Asaram had broken her trust, besides damaging the image of saints in society.
The SC/ST courts at all district headquarters in Rajasthan are authorised to try cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
According to the prosecution, the 16-year-old victim, whose parents were Asaram’s devotees, fell ill at Chhindwara’s residential school in August 2013.
Her parents were asked to take the girl to the godman for treatment of “evil spirits” which had possessed her.
The victim was then brought to Manai, where he was residing.
Parents told to leave
Asaram told the girl’s parents to go away in the intervening night of August 15 and 16, 2013, when he was alone in his hut with the victim. The girl stated in her complaint that he sexually assaulted her for over an hour and threatened her against revealing anything to her parents.
When she narrated the incident to her parents, her father went to New Delhi to confront Asaram, and then lodged a complaint with the police when he could not meet him.
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.
# Mercury climbs to 40 degrees Celsius in interior areas of Tamil Nadu
Searing heat to continue till Friday; normal temperatures in Chennai, coastal areas
There may not be much respite from the searing heat at several places in interior Tamil Nadu till Friday. Day temperatures along the coast have stayed close to normal.
For the fifth consecutive day, the mercury level peaked above 40 degree Celsius in several interior places, including Karur, Tiruchi and Tiruttani, on Wednesday.
Officials of the Meteorological Department said the day temperature will gradually rise in the interior areas. However, there was a possibility of thunder showers at one or two places during evening hours.
This April, areas in the coastal region, including Chennai, are experiencing relatively less warm days.
On Wednesday, the weather stations in Nungambakkam and Meenambakkam recorded 36.1 degree Celsius and 37.6 degree Celsius, which is close to normal temperature for the season.
Officials said this was the usual weather pattern for the season and dry weather would continue over coastal areas.
Residents may feel the heat during the day due to hot westerly winds in the morning.
But, unlike in interior areas, sea breeze would keep the rising temperature under control.
Last April, the maximum temperature peaked at 39.7 degree Celsius on April 17 and the mercury level touched 40.8 degree Celsius on April 23 in 2016 in Chennai. However, this year, the temperature has largely stayed close to normal in the city.
The Meteorological department forecasts that the maximum temperature would be around 37 degree Celsius in the city till Friday.
# Ministry clears Indu Malhotra as SC judge
First woman lawyer to be elevated
Senior advocate Indu Malhotra will be the first woman lawyer to be elevated as a Supreme Court judge after the Law Ministry cleared her name for the position.
Sources said the official notification will be published soon as Ms. Malhotra is likely to take oath on Friday.
The Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising among others Justices J. Chelameshwar and Ranjan Gogoi, also cleared 12 names across four High Courts to be appointed as judges. While five names were cleared for the Gujarat High Court, four have been recommended for the Chhattisgarh High Court, two for the Madras High Court and one for the Bombay High Court.
Ms. Malhotra was one of the two names the SC Collegium had recommended for elevation in January.
# Not against petrol, diesel in GST regime: Isaac
The State government is not opposed to the Centre including petrol and diesel in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime after compensating the revenue loss, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has said.
Dr. Isaac told reporters here on Wednesday that the Union government had agreed to compensate the loss incurred by States for five years if the tax collection post-GST did not touch 14%. Similarly, if the Centre agreed to compensate the revenue loss on bringing petrol and diesel within the ambit of the GST, the State government would not oppose it.
# State gets 11 more Post Office PSKs
To ease the load on five Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) in Bengaluru, Hubballi, Mangaluru, and Kalaburagi, the Regional Passport Office (RPO), Bengaluru, opened 11 more Post Office Passport Seva Kendras in the State in February and March.
# CBI cracks Kotkhai rape case, man arrested
The CBI has cracked the Kotkhai rape-cum-murder of a teenaged girl last year with the arrest of a 25-year-old man using an advanced percentage-based DNA lineage analysis method. Accused Anil Kumar has been sent to judicial custody till May 7.
# A self-styled godman who fancied a lavish lifestyle
Began as a bootlegger and ended up owning a Rs. 5,000 crore business empire
Not long ago, self-styled godman Asaram, convicted in a rape and sexual assault case on Wednesday, was a powerful preacher with 20 million followers, running 425 ashrams and 50 gurukuls in a dozen countries and presiding over a Rs. 5,000 crore business empire.
Born in what is now Pakistan’s Sindh province in 1941, his family moved to Gujarat after Partition and settled in Ahmedabad’s middle and lower middle class Maninagar area.
Sometime in the 1960s, Asumal Harpalani became Asaram and set up a small ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati in the Motera area of Ahmedabad.
The spotless white dhoti and kurta, and a snow-white beard to match, made him look the part and that combined with a growing list of quotable quotes including life tips — on everything from marital bliss to cures for cancer — and ashrams selling all sorts of consumer products like soaps, shampoos and ayurvedic medicines, helped him sustain the air of godliness and win more and more followers every day as his stature grew.
In Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, where most of his ashrams and gurukuls were set up, he created a massive following, mainly among tribals, the Backward Communities and Sindhis.
However, for 79-year-old Asaram, who transitioned from Asumal Harpalani to Asaram, allegations of criminality and controversies were nothing new as he reportedly started as a liquor bootlegger in “dry” Gujarat.
Though he preached that “morality cannot survive in the absence of spirituality and materialism inevitably brings sorrow and misery”, he developed a taste for the good and lavish life.
Soon, as the number of ashrams rose and the follower base grew, so did his desires for material life.
He got a fleet of luxurious cars but preferred to travel by Mercedes or BMW, hired choppers to fly from one ashram to another and enjoyed VVIP status at airports, avoided getting frisked and used to be taken to aircraft in special convoys often escorted by police.
# Kathua case accused move SC
Two prime accused in the Kathua gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court opposing the plea of the victim’s father seeking transfer of trial outside the State, preferably to Chandigarh.
Sanji Ram and Vishal Jangotra have also sought transfer of the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation besides seeking to be impleaded as parties in the petition filed by the father of the victim.
The two have claimed innocence, and said they were compelled to file the interlocutory application for impleadment because they were “falsely implicated and arrayed as accused persons in the case”.
“It is humbly stated that the applicants are necessary and proper parties as their rights and interest are bound to be affected by the outcome of the writ petition,” they said.