The Supreme Court on Monday expressed anguish over the tardy pace of progress in a rape case involving self-styled religious figure Asaram Bapu and asked the Gujarat government to file a progress report on it.
The apex court, which has earlier rejected several bail pleas by Asam and was hearing one more moved by him, also questioned the state government on why the victim in the case has not yet been examined. "Why is there a delay despite the earlier direction for expeditious trial? Why has the victim not been examined so far," a bench of Justices N V Ramana and Amitava Roy said. It told the Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat government, that directions for expediting recording of evidence were given in April. "Why has the victim's statement not been recorded in the case so far. She is the most crucial witness in the case," the bench observed.
Mehta told the bench that two crucial witnesses have been killed, one is missing and 17 others injured in alleged attacks. The woman will be examined by the court after ensuring her safety, he said, adding that out of 92 material witnesses, over 45 of them have been examined so far.
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 had led to the death of two witnesses. 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 several witnesses in the Asaram rape cases. Asaram was arrested by Jodhpur Police on August 31, 2013 and has been in jail since then.