File photo of Asaram. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )
The self-styled godman Asaram was on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment after he found guilty of raping a teenage girl in 2013.
Two co-accused were convicted along with Asaram, while two others were acquitted. There were a total of five men, including Asaram, charged with the crime.
The verdict was passed inside the Jodhpur Central Jail, where Asaram has been lodged since September 2013, itself.
Four other co-accused were also found guilty of the crime.
"Asaram is convicted, we have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight," ANI reported the victim's father as saying.
"Now I hope he will get strict punishment. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice," he added.
Asaram's spokesperson reacted to the verdict, saying: "We will discuss with our legal team and then decide our future course of action. We have confidence in our judiciary."
Asaram was accused of raping a teenage girl from Shahajahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, who was studying at the godman's ashram at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.
Asaram had denied the charge of rape.
The victim had alleged that Asaram called her to his ashram in the Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.
Asaram is accused of rape in another case.
In Gujarat, two Surat-based sisters have lodged separate complaints against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, accusing them both of rape.
Security had been stepped up and prohibitory orders passed in Jodhpur ahead of the verdict,
Apprehending a threat to law and order, the Centre had asked the Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana governments to tighten security and deploy additional forces as the three states have a large number of followers of the 77-year-old Asaram.
In a communication, the Union Home Ministry had told the three states to beef up security and ensure that no violence takes place after the judgement. The three states were also told to deploy additional forces in sensitive places, a Home Ministry official had said.
Security was also stepped up around the victim's house in Shahajahanpur.
"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 a strict vigil is being maintained on all the visitors using CCTV cameras," Superintendent of Police KB Singh had told PTI .
A vigil was also being kept outside Asaram's ashram at Rudrapur, he added.
The Union Home Ministry's advisory was sent in view of the fact that large-scale violence was witnessed in Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh after a special court in Mohali convicted Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim last year.
Final arguments in the Asaram case had been completed by the special court for SC/ST cases on April 7 and the court had kept the order reserved for April 25.
Asaram was arrested in Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. He has been in judicial custody since September 2, 2013.
Asaram unsuccessfully moved 12 bail applications, of which six were rejected by the trial court, three by the Rajasthan high court and three by the Supreme Court.
The charge sheet against Asaram and four other co-accused Shiva, Shilpi, Sharad and Prakash had been filed by the police on November 6, 2013 under various sections of the POSCO Act, Juvenile Justice Act and IPC.
In the Surat rape case, the Supreme Court earlier this month gave five weeks time to the prosecution to complete the trial.
(With inputs from agencies)