Guj court asked to expedite recording evidence in Asaram case

Guj court asked to expedite recording evidence in Asaram case

Guj court asked to expedite recording evidence in Asaram case
The Supreme Court today asked a Gujarat trial court to expedite recording of evidence of prosecution witnesses in a sexual assault case lodged by two Surat-based sisters against self-styled godman Asaram.

A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and S K Kaul asked the Surat trial court to record the testimonies of 46 remaining prosecution witnesses including the alleged rape victims.

"The trial court is directed to expedite the examination of witnesses as expeditiously as may be practically possible," the bench said. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, said this is the same case in which two prosecution witnesses have been killed.

He further said that 29 prosecution witnesses have already been examined and the recording of evidence of 46 others is still remaining. "Don't linger it. This is what we want to say (to) you (Gujarat). Expedite the recording of evidence," the bench said while fixing the plea filed by Asaram for further hearing in the third week of July.

Earlier, the top court had refused to grant bail to Asaram on various grounds including his poor health in two separate sexual assault cases lodged in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The apex court, while dismissing his bail plea on January 30, had observed that Asaram had placed a "fictitious document" to persuade the court to grant him bail and had ordered registration of an FIR against those responsible for preparing and filing the alleged fake papers.

The Gujarat Government had earlier told the top court that the rape case registered against Asaram would very likely proceed in an expeditious manner and the trial would be completed within six months.

The two Surat-based 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 case in Rajasthan, a teenage girl had accused him of sexual assault at his ashram in Manai village near Jodhpur. The girl, who belonged to Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, was a student living in the ashram.

The apex court had noted that trial in the matter was unnecessarily prolonged and the prosecution witnesses were being attacked, which led to the death of two witnesses.

It had said Asaram's present medical condition is "not so serious" which requires him to be transferred to another jail or another hospital as, according to the Rajasthan government, he is being treated in a hospital in Jodhpur which has all the facilities to treat him for the ailment.

Asaram had sought bail on medical grounds, saying that as per medical reports, he was suffering from a prostate problem and needed medical treatment for the ailment.

His counsel had said that Asaram was being treated at the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Jodhpur since 2014 and high standard of treatment facilities are available there.

The apex court had on November 18 last year sought the response of the Centre and five states on a plea seeking a CBI probe into the alleged murder of children and attacks on ten witnesses in the Asaram rape cases. Asaram was arrested by Jodhpur Police on August 31, 2013 and has been in jail since then.