Jodhpur:Senior police officer Ajay Pal Lamba received more than 2,000 threatening letters and hundreds of phone calls while he was overseeing the investigation in the rape case against self-styled godman Asaram.
A special court in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur convicted Asaram of raping a minor girl at his Jodhpur ashram in 2013. Asaram faces at least 10 years in jail; under the charges, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment. The quantum of sentence is yet to be pronounced.
Lamba says he was handed over the most high profile case of his career on August 20, 2013, that entailed relentless media spotlight, killing of witnesses and the most disturbing of all – the threats to policemen by Asaram’s followers. He was the deputy commissioner of police (DCP), Jodhpur West, then.
“The letters carried abuses and threatened they would kill my family if anything happened to Asaram. My phone would not stop ringing and I stopped receiving calls from unknown numbers. The letters stopped only when I shifted to Udaipur,” says Lamba, a 2005 batch Indian Police Service officer.
Lamba, now the superintendent of police (anti-corruption bureau) in Jodhpur, stopped sending his daughter to school for a while and his wife would not step out of their house.
He adds that one of the accused, arrested for killing a witness in the case, confessed that his next target was Chanchal Mishra, the then deputy superintendent of police with Jodhpur Police and investigating officer in the case.
The victim was 16 when she was raped by Asaram at his ashram in Jodhpur in August 2013. Her family filed a complaint in Delhi on August 20, 2013, after which Asaram was charged with rape, wrongful confinement, sexual harassment, trafficking, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy. The case was transferred to Jodhpur.
The investigating team, he says, filed its first chargesheet in the Asaram rape case in a little over 10 weeks.
“There was no political pressure of any kind but I felt that the longer the investigation is delayed, the more it tangles up,” Lamba says.
In addition, the tricky part was picking up Asaram from his ashram in Indore as well as ensuring his supporters don’t create a law and order situation in Jodhpur and establishing evidence against him as the first information report was lodged five days after the incident.
Asaram failed to appear before the team of policemen from Jodhpur and his arrest was a monumental task for the department.
“When my 11-member team went to deliver a summon notice to the Asaram at his ashram in Madhya Pradesh, they faced a mob of about 8,000 people. My team was shoved and it took them 10 hours just to be able to deliver that piece of paper,” Lamba says.
Lamba says the media coverage dampened the morale of the supporters to an extent and the local police managed to take control of the situation in Indore. The police team from Jodhpur entered the ashram on August 30, 2013, to arrest him.
The 79-year-old Asaram was also booked under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. He has been in the Jodhpur Central Jail for the last 56 months.
“He requested that he be taken by flight and the police agreed. During the night, he was talking to his kids in Sindhi and asked them to amass 25,000 of his supporters by morning. ‘I’ll see how they’ll take me then’, he said on the phone. One of my men understood Sindhi and his plan was foiled,” Lamba says.
Asaram was brought to Jodhpur and put in a government guest house.
“When I entered the room, he was sitting on a sofa. I told him to get off and sit on the floor. The very moment he confessed that he made a mistake,” Lamba says.
Multiple testimonies, the victim’s statement and Asaram’s potency test helped the team frame a watertight case, which Lamba believes resulted in Asaram’s conviction.
Calling the conviction “historic”, Lamba says the court’s decision shows that “truth has won”.
“It shows that if the law works impartially, even persons from the weakest sections of the society can take on the most influential ones and get justice,” he says.
CJI recuses from hearing petition challenging interim CBI chief appointment
New Delhi: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has recused himself from hearing a plea challenging M Nageswara Rao’s appointment as interim Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Gogoi has sought transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI Director.
CJI Gogoi said he cannot hear plea as he would be part of the committee meeting to select the next CBI director.
.The plea will now be heard on January 24 by another bench.
The high-powered selection committee comprises the prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party and the CJI or his nominee judge of the apex court.
A bench comprising CJI and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Common Cause challenging the appointment of Rao as interim CBI director.
‘Not safe’: Mamata refuses to allow Amit Shah’s chopper to land in Malda, BJP cries foul
KOLKATA: In yet another attempt by Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal to stop Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) President Amit Shah from addressing rally in the state, the state government has denied permission for landing of Shah’s helicopter in Malda district.
The BJP president, who was recently treated for swine flu at AIIMS in New Delhi, is scheduled to address a rally in Malda on January 22. As per BJP’s plan, Shah will reach Kolkata and then take a helicopter from there to reach Malda where he will participate in a public rally with BJP workers from North Bengal.
The Malda district administration has informed the BJP that it is not possible to grant permission to land helicopters at Malda airport this week.
“As per report of the executive engineer, PWD (civil), Malda Division, up-gradation of work at Malda Airport is going on in full swing. A large quantity of fine sand, dust and GSB materials is lying all along the runway and also stacked all around the site,” Additional District Magistrate of Malda said in a letter to BJP.
The letter added that the ongoing construction work has also affected the maintenance of temporary helipad at the airport and it is not possible to grant permission to Shah’s chopper to land at Malda Airport.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of BJP Malda unit had written to Malda DM saying that West Bengal government is using Malda Airport for landing their helicopter every Wednesday and they are refusing permission to Shah’s helicopter.
Centre threatening to impose Prez’s rule in Andhra: Chandrababu
Amaravati: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Monday alleged that the Centre was threatening to impose President’s Rule in the state but, he said, nobody would be cowed down by such threats.
He claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a “negative leader” under whose leadership the country was regressing. Addressing a teleconference with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leaders, he attacked the prime minister and the BJP, saying they did nothing special for Andhra.
“They say one Union minister will come to the state every week. What good have they done for the state? On top of it, they are issuing threats that President’s Rule will be imposed in Andhra Pradesh. There is nobody here to be cowed down by their threats,” Naidu said.
Referring to the opposition parties’ rally in Kolkata two days ago, the TDP chief said it marked the beginning of the end of dictatorial rule and gave confidence to the people of the country. “We will hold a similar rally in Amaravati in which leaders of 22 parties will take part,” Naidu added.
The TDP chief lashed out at his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao and YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, saying they were working under Modi’s direction.
The TRS and the YSRC were conspiring to create misgivings among the backward classes so that they are distanced from the TDP, he alleged. He said the backward communities should unitedly thwart such attempts.