Jaipur : A court in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur Thursday read out charges of rape and other offences against spiritual guru Asaram Bapu in the case of allegedly sexually assaulting a minor girl against him, a lawyer said.

Pradeep Choudhary, one of the lawyers representing Asaram, said the court of district and sessions judge, Jodhpur (rural) read out the charges in presence of Asasram and other co-accused. The accused denied the charges and opted for trial. “The case will come up for hearing February 17 now,” the lawyer said. In the earlier hearing on Feb 7, the court had framed charges against Asaram and other co-accused including Shilpi, Shiva, Prakash and Sharad.

The court dropped section 26 of Juvenile Justice Act, while retaining all the other charges under the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act against Asaram.

Asaram is booked for rape, criminal intimidation, wrongful confinement, assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and some sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Police had filed a charge sheet against Asaram in November.

On Aug 20, a 16-year-old girl lodged a police complaint accusing Asaram, 72, of sexually assaulting her at his ashram near Jodhpur.

In her complaint, she alleged that Asaram’s aides sent her to his Jodhpur ashram on the pretext that she was under the influence of an ‘evil spirit’ and the spiritual guru could perform an exorcism.

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