NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked trial courts in Rajasthan and Gujarat to pass appropriate orders if pleas seeking protection for prosecution witnesses are filed in three criminal cases pending against controversial religious figure Asaram.
A bench comprising Justices A R Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel, which allowed CBI's plea for probe into the alleged killings of three witnesses, said "we direct the trial courts concerned to look into the grievances of the witnesses and pass appropriate orders." The bench then disposed of the PIL filed by Augustine Castelino, a non-resident Indian living in Auckland, New Zealand.
Castelino, in his plea, had also sought a direction to police authorities to provide "24-hour armed security to all prosecution witnesses in the case known as the Bapuasaram case." The plea also referred to the death of witnesses Amrut Prajapati, Akhil Gupta and Rahul Sachan saying that all these witnesses are connected to the case.
"Issue a writ ... to direct the constitution of a high-level committee of security experts to assess the vulnerability of witnesses and provision of security to witnesses where Bapu Asaram and his family members are accused," the plea said. The bench, which initially asked Castelino to go to the high court, later ordered the lower courts at Jodhpur, Surat and Ahmedabad to consider and decide on pleas filed by or on behalf of witnesses.
Asaram is facing trial in three criminal cases. A sessions court at Jodhpur is trying a case against Asaram on the charge of raping a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of a Shahjahanpur couple who had been his devotees for several years, in August 2013 in his Jodhpur ashram.
Another case is being tried by a Gandhinagar court which relates to allegations of rape between 2001 and 2006, levelled by a Surat-based woman against Asaram. In yet another case, Asaram and his son Narayan Sai have been accused of rape on October 6, 2013 by two sisters, also from Surat.