Jodhpur: The Jodhpur Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe Court on Wednesday sentenced self-styled godman Asaram Bapu to life imprisonment for the rape of a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in 2013.
Earlier on Wednesday, the court had held Asaram and two others guilty for the offence.
The other two accused Shilpi and Sharad have been sentenced to 20 years each in jail.
The verdict was pronounced by Judge Madhusudan Sharma inside the Jodhpur Jail due to security reasons.
Two other attendants of Asaram Bapu were acquitted by the Jodhpur court in the case.
In the case registered in Rajasthan, a 16-year-old girl from Shahajahanpur of Uttar Pradesh had accused Asaram of raping her at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur on the night of August 15, 2013. The girl was brought to the ashram by her parents.
Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He has been under judicial custody since September 2, 2013.
After the conviction, Asaram's spokesperson Neelam Dubey said after discussion with their legal team, a future course of action would be decided.
Hailing the verdict, the victim's father said the family had finally got justice.
"I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice," he said.
Asaram was taken into police custody in August 2013, following which he was taken to Jodhpur Central jail. A month later, a potency test was conducted on him and was produced before a Jodhpur court.
In November the same year, the chargesheet filed against Asaram and four others -- Shiva, Shilpi, Sharad and Prakash -- had indicated blackmail in exchange of sexual favours, after which the former was booked under Sections 342, 376, 506 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 8 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
In the years that followed, a number of key witnesses in the case were attacked or went missing. In 2014, Asaram's personal aide was shot dead, while another associate was killed in 2015 in Muzaffarnagar. In the same year, two more witnesses were attacked by unidentified individuals, while another witness went missing from Lucknow.
While the self-styled godman has filed a number of bail petitions, a total of 12 applications were rejected by the trial court, the Rajasthan High Court, and the Supreme Court.
Asaram is also facing a rape case in Surat in which the Supreme Court earlier this month gave five weeks time to the prosecution to complete the trial.
Two Surat-based sisters had lodged separate complaints against the self-styled godman and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape.
Previously on Tuesday, the Centre asked Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana to tighten security and deploy additional forces ahead of the verdict.
This is the fourth case in the history of Indian judiciary that verdict has been pronounced inside the jail The others were former Prime Minister Indira Ganshi’s assassinators (Tihar Jail), Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab (Arthur Road Jail) and Gurmeet Ram Rahim (Sunaria Jail Rohtak).
Media too was bared from entering the jail as the Rajasthan High Court dismissed all appeals for coverage inside the premises.
Asaram Bapu was represented by top lawyers Ram Jethmalani and Subramanian Swami....