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HomeIndiaGovernanceLack of video-conferencing facility in Gujarat court holds up Asaram trial

Lack of video-conferencing facility in Gujarat court holds up Asaram trial

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The apex court told state twice in four months to expedite trial even as godman uses this delay to seek bail

At a time when Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s sentencing is making news — he was given 20 years in jail in two rape cases by a CBI court Monday — another godman’s rape case is under the apex court’s scanner.

In four months, the Supreme Court has asked the Gujarat government twice to expedite a rape trial involving Asaram Bapu.

While the prosecution and the defence blame each other over the delay in trial, the real culprit could actually be the lack of infrastructure in courts.

Although the trial began in 2014, the hearings finally took off in the late 2016 since Asaram could not be produced in the court. Asaram could have been made available through video-conferencing but none of the three Gandhinagar sessions courts had the infrastructure for it.

“The judge eventually had to Skype with Asaram,” a lawyer familiar with the case said.

“The judge and the lawyers went to the district collector’s office to use the video-conferencing facility to examine a few other witnesses,” he added.

The trial began in 2014 in the Gandhinagar sessions court and only 25 witnesses have been examined by the prosecution so far. Asaram wants to use this delay in his trial to seek bail.

Asaram is currently lodged in a jail in Jodhpur where he is facing a trial in a separate rape case involving a minor. Asaram has already been denied bail in the Jodhpur case.

Special prosecutor R.C. Kodekar blames the defence lawyers for the delay in the case. Defence lawyer B.M. Gupta, on other hand, claims that it’s the Jodhpur jail authorities, which have failed to produce Asaram in a Gujarat court.

The trial court had allowed an important witness, Raju Chandak, to access his old statement which the defence lawyers have challenged before the Gujarat High Court in June.

“It has been 4-5 years since they gave their first statements. Their memory has to be refreshed since there has been so much time lapse,” Kodekar said

Incidentally, Chandak has filed an attempt to murder case against Asaram in 2009. Even his case has not progressed much. Till the high court disposes the appeal, the trial has been paused.

“We want a time-bound trial and verdict. We’ve asked the court several times to arrange for his appearance from Jodhpur jail,” Gupta said.

The two Surat sisters had lodged separate complaints against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them of rape and illegal confinement, among other charges.

The elder sister, in her complaint against Asaram, had accused him of repeated sexual assaults between 2001 and 2006 when she was staying at his ashram near Ahmedabad.

In the Rajasthan case, a teenager had accused him of sexual assault at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur.

The apex court is hearing another case seeking a central probe into the alleged murder of children and attacks on 10 witnesses in the rape cases.

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