Will Judiciary do justice in Asaram Bapu’s case?

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Sant Asaram Bapu appearing at Jodhpur Sessions Court. Photo Credit: The Hindu

Whether the complainant in the case against Sant Asaram Bapu in Jodhpur is victim at the hands of Him or He is being implicated in the false case is the question supposed to be decided by the trial court in Jodhpur. But what seems to be apparent about the case is the prejudice being exhibited by the courts in Jodhpur against Him and if it continues to pervade then outcome of the trial can very well be inferred, that is His conviction, even at this juncture

I vividly remember the prejudicial and inhumane attitude, towards Him, of the District & Sessions Court in Jodhpur manifested when the Court, in complete disregard to the mandatory provisions of Rule 223 of the Rajasthan Prisons Rules 1951, didn’t allow Sant Asaram Bapu to receive home–made food inside the prison. The District and Sessions Court “in order to ensure safety and security of Sant Asaram Bapu” deprived Him of His well-being by disallowing home–made food to Him.

If the Court deemed conversation between Him and media necessary to be stopped for the reasons close to its heart then why would it not put similar clutches on media/press persons? Or the High Court was afraid of media scrutiny under which it was likely to come in case it had prohibited media/press persons to come inside the trial court premise like it forbid followers of Sant Asaram Bapu even from entering the city of Jodhpur.

Apprehension of the Court having been prejudicial to Sant Asaram Bapu grows further when it is seen vis–a–vis-Babulal Nagar’s matter who was minister in the then State government. In the very same days when Sant Asaram Bapu was being denied home–made food, Babulal Nagar was permitted such food by the judiciary in the same State just after his arrest and without any hurdle.

How would a prudent person not say it judiciary’s prejudice against Him when the rule and that’s too which are mandatory in nature and not merely discretionary. Was breached in His case by the court? Is it not the conduct of the judiciary itself which has occasioned serious reservations in the minds of the public about its impartiality with regard to application of mandatory law?

“The present criminal revisions relate to the famous case of the infamous Asharam@Ashumal and others.” are the disparaging remarks made by a Judge of the Rajasthan High Court while disposing off the revision petition filed by Sant Asaram Bapu. I safely assume that the honorable Judge was conscious of the principle of Judicial Restraint which expected honorable Judges and Judicial Officers, while discharging judicial functions, not to say what is not essential for adjudication of questions before them. Despitedly the Judge attributed “infamous” to Him with no judicial objectivity as the Judge was to only decide whether charges were rightly framed by the trial court against Him and not the question of good or bad popularity of Him.

It may wildly be argued that the Judge “suo–moto” went into His popularity but then he ought to have mentioned in the Judgment the material on the basis of which he passed such carping words to Him. Otherwise such defence would only underline that the bench fallen prey to the media trial in the case.

Prejudice against Him again came on record on this 14th September when a two Judges bench of the Rajasthan High Court in Jodhpur curbed His fundamental right to speech and expression for an indefinite period. The divisional bench passed the direction while hearing a petition which challenged conduct of trial in the case in Jail premise instead of in the court and said, “The petitioners are directed not to indulge in any conversion with media/press persons or shall otherwise make any public statement when they are brought to the court to face the trial.”

Sant Asaram Bapu have not during the course of court proceedings conversed with any media/press persons or made any public statement in a manner which can even remotely be adverse to public, judiciary or prejudicial to the case. He has always been expressing his trust in the judiciary and keeps on appealing His followers to be calm and faithful of the judiciary. In view of such facts and the law on the point the High Court’s direction is only left as deplored. The direction also smacks of prejudice against Him when it is passed in the shape of an un–reasoned order. Also it can’t escape the eyes of readers of the Judgment that if the Court deemed conversation between Him and media necessary to be stopped for the reasons close to its heart then why would it not put similar clutches on media/press persons? Or the High Court was afraid of media scrutiny under which it was likely to come in case it had prohibited media/press persons to come inside the trial court premise like it forbid followers of Sant Asaram Bapu even from entering the city of Jodhpur.

What is transpiring in the matter of Sant Asaram Bapu as unveiled by the incidents is signaling to common masses that there is something called rule of Judges that do also exists. If such notion persists among members of public for a significant period of time then such people will lose faith in Judiciary in the State. So they will stop turning to it for want of justice and may also not adhere to its judgments, orders and decrees. Therefore it is high time for the Judiciary in the State to introspect and accordingly take corrective steps in His as well as other people’s case so as not to beget otherwise imminent situation.

Dharm Raj
He is an advocate at Mumbai High-Court. Before this, An Entrepreneur and IIT alumnus in Naval Engineering.
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