NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked Gujarat about the slow trial of another self styled godman Asaram Bapu. accused of rape. The court asked the Gujarat court why the victim had not been examined till date, and directed it to file an affidavit.

The apex court had in April this year asked the Gujarat trial court to hear the Asaram rape case on an urgent basis, and complete the trial within a time frame. The SC has now asked the trial court to explain the inordinate delay.

Asaram’s rise follows the same pattern as the Punjab Dera rapist Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Originally from Sindh he rose to prominence through political patronage, established a chain of ashrams on public land (with many being challenged in the courts for usurping village land), and went on to be accused of rape, murders of young boys, and the death of crucial witnesses. He also took on the governments of the day when challenged, with his supporters clashing with the police on occasion.

He has rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful through the rise of his career, with 400 ashrams in India and the world. From Atal Bihar Vajpayee, to LK Advani, to Murli Manohar Joshi, to Vasundhra Raje Scindia, to Narendra Modi, Asaram has lived off BJP support at the centre and the states. He started Parents Worship Day, with endorsements from former President of India Pranab Mukherjee, US Sentators, Bollywood stars and other celebrities.

In 2008 two boys died in his local gurukul whose mutilated bodies were found in 2013 on the banks of the Sabarmati river. Two more died in similar circumstances, with allegations of black magic leading to public protests. A Gujarat CID enquiry was held that predictably found no evidence. The Gujarat government set up Justice DK Trivedi Commission to enquire further with Asaram’s supporters clashing with the cops, and the man himself issuing threats that Modi would be thrown out if he was further victimised. Nothing came of this particular probe.

In August 2013 the 16 year old girl accused him of rape. Her father filed a complaint that he was being threatened. Asaram dismissed the allegations saying he was impotent. But he, according to the media at the time, passed a potency test. He was arrested on August 3., 2013 and has since been in prison with the charges still to be proven. In December 2013, two sisters from Surat filed a case against Asaram and his son Narayan Sai saying that both had molested them, giving specifics of the assault in the Surat ashram. Sai was also arrested.

The bench headed by Chief Justice S.Khehar at the time, also rejected an interim bail plea on health grounds for the Gujarat rape case. “The instant plea is devoid of merit and hence dismissed,” the Bench observed. It also rejected the plea for regular bail, after taking note of the attacks on crucial witnesses and the attempts of Asaram to delay the trial by examining prosecution witnesses on several dates.

The Supreme Court had last year asked for the response of the central government and five states on a petition asking for a Central Bureau of Investigation enqiry into the alleged murder of children through black magic. The plea had also spoken of attacks on at least ten witnesses in Asaram’s rape cases.

The Supreme Court query today clearly demonstrates that it expects an early verdict, and has reminded Gujarat of this. Given the evidence, as in the case of the Dera rapist, based on direct testimony of the victims it does seem now that Asaram’s days too are numbered.