Asaram in Jodhpur; Gehlot says no one is above law

Jaipur, Sep 1 (IANS) Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Sunday said that no one is above law as spiritual guru Asaram Bapu, facing allegations of sexual assault, was brought under arrest by a plane to Jodhpur from Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

Talking to media persons in Jodhpur, over 350 km from here, Gehlot said that no actor, politician or any other person was above law.

"Let the law take its own course," he said.

"The police should be allowed to do its job of unbiased investigation. We want that whoever is guilty should be punished," said Gehlot.

The chief minister said police have made elaborate arrangement for maintaining law and order in Jodhpur.

A Rajasthan Police team brought Asaram Bapu, 72, to Jodhpur city Sunday afternoon after arresting him past midnight Saturday from his ashram in Indore in a sexual assault case lodged against him by a 16-year-old girl, an official said.

Asaram was arrested after lengthy questioning at his ashram in Indore, sources said.

The girl lodged a complaint at a police station in Delhi Aug 20, accusing Asaram of sexually assaulting her at his ashram in Jodhpur. Asaram has denied the charge, and his son has claimed the girl was "mentally unstable".

A police officer told IANS that after preliminary questioning, Asaram will be presented in a Rajasthan court, as it is a Sunday he may be taken to magistrate's residence for seeking remand.

The spiritual guru was brought in a flight from Delhi to Jodhpur after being flown from Indore to Delhi by another morning flight.

Security was stepped up in Jodhpur ahead of Asaram's arrival, he said.

"Heavy police force has been deployed at his ashram in Jodhpur, and the court where he will be produced and the police station concerned," said the officer.

Police Saturday arrested 13 followers of Asaram in Jodhpur for assaulting media persons covering developments in the sexual assault case.

Asaram has been booked under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Indian Penal Code.

According to the allegations of the girl, who studied at Asaram's ashram in Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara and stayed in a girls' hostel there, the guru sexually assaulted her on the pretext of exorcism.

Police also summoned hostel warden Shilpi, hostel attendant Keshav and Asaram Bapu's caretaker Shiva for questioning Thursday.

"One of them - Shiva - appeared before police yesterday. He is being interrogated," said the officer.

A police team also inspected the spiritual guru's ashram near Jodhpur and recorded statements of several people to verify whether the girl and her parents were present at the ashram Aug 15 when the alleged incident took place.

Asaram has blamed Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi for his legal tangles. The Congress has rubbished the allegation.

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