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Supreme Court quashes NGT order on ‘silence zone’ at Amarnath shrine

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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi, April 16: The Supreme Court on Monday set aside an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that declared a “silence zone” in front of the ice stalagmite resembling the “Shivalinga” at the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta stayed the December 13 order of the NGT while hearing a plea filed by the Amarnath Shrine Board against the order on the ground that a decision in a case could not be based on grounds outside the pleading of the parties.

The Amarnath cave shrine is considered one of the most holy by Hindus. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year barring a short period of time in summer when it is opened for pilgrims.

Appearing for the Amarnath Shrine Board, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that the NGT had taken up the Amarnath issue on its own while dealing with a plea relating to stopping the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises in Jammu.

The bench asked petitioner and environment activist Gauri Mulekhi to file a proper petition on the issue relating to the Amarnath shrine.

During the hearing, Rohatgi told the bench that the NGT had barred chiming of bells, offering of “prasad”, chanting of mantras or saying “Jai Bholenath” in the areas surrounding the famed cave shrine to preserve its eco sensitivity.

Hearing this, the bench quipped: “What does it (NGT) want to say?”

Rohatgi added: “How can they ask that you can’t take ‘prasad’ with you? People have religious sentiments.”

On the NGT’s order of banning carrying of “prasad”, the bench suggested that Amarnath Shrine Board could provide the “prasad”.

On December 13, the green penal had declared the cave shrine a “silence zone” and prohibited religious offerings beyond the entry point to help prevent avalanches and maintain its pristine nature.

A day later, following protests by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which termed its order as a “Tughlaki fatwa”, the NGT clarified that it had not declared a “silence zone” at the Amarnath cave shrine but due silence had to be maintained only in front of the “Shivalinga”.

The apex court stayed another order of the NGT where it had imposed a cost of Rs 50 lakh on the Jammu and Kashmir government for not finalising a rehabilitation plan for horses and mules which have been barred from plying from Katra to the Vaishno Devi temple.

The tribunal had earlier said that a new path should be created to the shrine exclusively for pedestrians and battery-operated cars and directed that no horses or mules would be allowed on the new route to the shrine.

The apex court was on Monday informed that the scheme for rehabilitation had been finalised and would be placed before the state cabinet for its approval.

IANS

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So far, Rajasthan govt has Spent Rs 7.25 Crore on Asaram

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New Delhi, April 25: A special Jodhpur court on Wednesday held Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl and sentenced life imprisonment to the self-proclaimed godman.

According to News18 estimated report, Vasundhara Raje led Rajasthan Government has spent Rs 7.25 crore on Asaram, who has been lodged in Jodhpur Central Jail since 2013.

During his proceedings at the special court, the self-styled godman was surrounded by a team of 50 personnel, which included both senior officers and common people.

Twenty constables were charged with reaching the court ahead of Asaram to ensure that all arrangements were in place.

In the meantime, another 20 cops would travel in the same vehicle as Asaram to the court. There would be a car in front of the vehicle Asaram was traveling in and another at the back comprising five cops each.

However, when a common man hires a police constable for his or her security, the charge is Rs 3,000 per day and the charge of hiring an inspector-level officer is much higher.

Asaram had to turn up for 100 hearings in a year, the expense for which costs around Rs 1.50 crore per year.

Since the case went on for nearly 5 years, it makes a total of Rs 7.25 crore.

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Asaram rape case: ‘Self-styled Godman’ gets life imprisonment

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Asaram Bapu

New Delhi, April 25: Self-styled godman Asaram Bapu has been Asaraam sentenced to life imprisonment by Jodhpur Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Court for raping a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in 2013.

Special Judge Madhusudhan Sharma delivered the verdict in which three accused including Asaram convicted, two other accused acquitted by in connection with the rape case.

Minutes after the verdict, Asaram spokesperson, Neelam Dubey said “We will discuss with our legal team and then decide our future course of action. We have confidence in our judiciary.

Following the directions of the Rajasthan High Court, the trial court pronounced its verdict in Jodhpur Central Jail premises.

Updates: 

Rest of two accused Shilpi, Sharad sentenced to 20 years jail term

Asaram gets life imprisonment

We have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight, says Victim’s Father 

Asaram is convicted, we have got justice. I want to thank everyone who supported us in this fight. Now I hope he will get strict punishment. I also hope the witnesses who were murdered or kidnapped get justice, said Father of the victim.

Jodhpur Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Court convicts three accussed including Asaram and acquits two other accused

Visuals from Ahmedabad

To ensure law and order is maintained following the verdict, additional forces have been are deployed in three states — Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat.

Rapists like Asaram should be hanged, says Mahendra Chawla, a witness in the case

Trust judiciary and am confident that Asaram will be convicted. I request judiciary that such rapists should be hanged. Though I have security, I request Centre for additional security, my life like other witnesses is constantly under threat, news agency ANI quoted Mahendra Chawla as saying.

Delhi police on high alert 

The Delhi Police is also on high alert today in the wake of the verdict. A senior official says the cops have been given instructions in case followers of Asaram Bapu gather post-judgment. “We are in touch with police forces from neighbouring states to avert any untoward incident. Senior officers from districts and SHOs of police stations concerned have been directed to keep a watch in their respective areas,” he is quoted as saying by PTI.

Security tightened at Jodhpur jail ahead of Asaram Bapu’s case verdict

In Jodhpur, where the verdict will be delivered, authorities imposed Section 144.

Supporters of Asaram offer prayers 

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

Asaram was held on the complaint filed by a teenage girl from Uttar Pradesh’s Shahajahanpur.

The victim, who was studying at Asaram’s ashram at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, had alleged that the godman had called her to his ashram in Manai and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.

Asaram was nabbed from Indore and brought to Jodhpur on September 1, 2013. The godman is in judicial custody since September 2, 2013.

A charge sheet against Asaram and four other co-accused namely Shiva, Shilpi, Sharad and Prakash had been filed by police on November 6, 2013, under various sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), Juvenile Justice Act and Indian Penal Code.

The trial of the case had started in the district and session court on March 19, 2017, later it had been shifted to the special court for SC/ST cases on December 16, 2016.

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Rape survivor’s father welcomes Asaram’s conviction

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Asaram Bapu

Lucknow, April 25 (IANS) The father of the survivor who was raped as a teenager in 2013 by Asaram Bapu, on Wednesday welcomed a Jodhpur court’s verdict convicting the self-styled godman.

Talking to reporters outside his house in Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, after the court convicted Asaram Bapu of rape, the father said they had full faith in the judicial system.

However, he added that their struggles and ordeals during the period they were seeking justice tested their grit.

The survivor, who was a Class 12 student at Asaram Bapu’s Chhindwara Ashram in Madhya Pradesh, was raped in August 2013.

Following complaints about her sickness while in Chhindwara, the godman had summoned the girl and her family to his ashram in Manai village on the outskirts of Jodhpur in Rajasthan.

According to the victim’s complaint, she was raped for an hour by the godman on the intervening night of August 15-16, 2013.

The rape survivor’s father who had lodged complaint on August 20, also thanked the media for relentlessly pursuing the matter, and the district administration for providing them security all through the judicial process.

He also expressed hope that the court would hand out the toughest of punishment to the godman.

Before the judgment was pronounced by the Jodhpur court, security around the survivor’s residence was increased.

Pursuing the legal fight for the last five years, since he got a call from the Chhindwara hostel on August 7, 2013, he said he had been waiting for this moment.

He said, the ashram authorities had claimed that his daughter was besieged by spirits. To ward them off, he had taken her to meet Asaram and seek his blessings.

She reported the matter to her parents, who in turn had filed a zero First Information Report (FIR) with the Kamla Nagar police station in New Delhi on August 20.

Asaram Bapu has been in judicial custody since September 2, 2013.

IANS

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