Asaram Verdict: 378 Arrested as Police Fear Trouble; Centre Asks 3 States to Tighten Security

Jodhpur: A day ahead of the Asaram verdict in Jodhpur, police have arrested 378 people in anticipation of a law and order situation and these people will be kept in custody till April 28.

The Rajasthan Police on Tuesday arrested 378 people under Section 107 (security for keeping peace) and 151 (knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons) of CRPC.

The Centre on Tuesday asked Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana to tighten security and deploy additional forces ahead of the verdict by a Jodhpur court in a rape case against self-styled godman Asaram, an official said.

In order to avoid a law and order situation like Panchkula that left at least 38 people dead last August, security has been beefed up around the Jodhpur Central Jail premises ahead of the Asaram verdict that is set to be delivered on Wednesday. Police have already imposed Section 144 in Jodhpur from April 21 which will stay till April 30 to keep the situation under control in the aftermath of a negative verdict.

"We have made all arrangements for the judgment day," DIG Jail Vikram Singh said.

Six companies of armed battalions of Rajasthan Police have been deployed around the Jodhpur Central Jail. Police are also converting two stadiums in Jodhpur city into makeshift jails in case there is a need of making mass arrests after the verdict.

In a communication, the Home Ministry told three states to beef up security and ensure that no violence takes place after the judgment. Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana have a large number of followers of Asaram.

A day ahead of the verdict in the rape of a 16-year-old girl five years ago, self-styled godman Asaram Bapu on Tuesday appealed to his followers to not throng Jodhpur Central Jail and maintain peace and harmony.

The Delhi Police force has also issued an alert saying it will be in touch with the concerned states where the Asaram verdict might create a situation. All field formations of police have been put on alert. A Delhi Police spokesperson said, adequate forces will immediately be deployed to the required states in case of a situation.

Asaram was arrested in 2013 after a minor girl from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh had reported sexual assault by him in his ashram on the outskirts of Jodhpur.

"The security for the victim's family is continuously being monitored... Two more constables will stand guard outside her house in addition to the five policemen already deployed there, and strict vigil is being maintained on all the visitors using CCTV cameras," Superintendent of Police K B Singh told PTI.

jodhpur jail

Security has been beefed up around the Jodhpur Central Jail premises ahead of the verdict on Wednesday. (Image: News18)

Meanwhile, a two judge bench of the Rajasthan High Court has refused to allow media entry into the Jodhpur Central Jail premises to cover proceedings in the Asaram Bapu case verdict, which is set to be delivered on Wednesday.

The Rajasthan High Court, while dismissing a plea filed by a News18 reporter, stated that though the media “was the fourth pillar of democracy”, in order to maintain public order, the media would be allowed to cover the proceedings from outside the jail premises.

“There is no provision to allow the media in the court premises camped at Central Jail for coverage. It is true that media is fourth pillar of democracy and media is required to perform its pious duty, but at the same time, it is the prime duty of every citizen to cooperate with the administration for maintaining public order, therefore, no such permission can be granted to allow media persons in the court premises or in the Central Jail, Jodhpur for the purpose of coverage of the proceedings,” read the order by Justices Gopal Krishnan and Ramchandra Singh Jhala.

In the plea it was sought that the media be allowed to cover the proceedings from inside the jail premises at the time of pronouncement of verdict.

The court order comes close on the heels of a press note issued by Sant Sri Asaramji Ashram Trust in Delhi, which said that any person who indulges in anarchy cannot be a devotee of Asaram. The note impressed upon his followers to exercise restraint and do nothing that creates an obstacle in the process of justice.

The note has advised people to not believe in news circulating on social media and consult the nearest ashram or the one in Ahmedabad for the correct information.

Final arguments in the case had been completed by the special court for SC/ST cases on April 7 and the court had kept the order reserved to be pronounced on April 25.

Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He is under judicial custody since September 2, 2013.

On April 17, the Rajasthan High Court ordered a Jodhpur trial court to deliver its verdict inside the jail premises. The police had appealed to the high court anticipating a Panchkula-like situation in Jodhpur in the aftermath of a possible negative verdict.