An Indian High Court on Wednesday found self-styled godman and spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a 16-year-old devotee in 2013 and sentenced him to life in prison. 

The verdict against 77-year-old Asumal Sirumalani — also known as Asaram Bapu, who starting from early 1970s established more than 400 ashrams in India and abroad — was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur in the northern state of Rajasthan, where Asaram has been lodged for the past four years, to prevent his followers from resorting to violence. 

According to a report by English-language news channel India Today, Asaram was convicted under 15 different sections like “370(4) (trafficking), 342 (wrongful confinement), 354A (outraging modesty, 376 (rape), 506 (criminal intimidation), 109, 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code” among others. 

He was also found guilty under some sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Juvenile Justice Act. The prison term for Asaram was announced a few hours after Judge Madhusudhan Sharma heard the arguments from the prosecution and Asaram’s attorneys. 

Asaram has pleaded not guilty to the accusations and has a chance to appeal to a higher court. On Wednesday, before his hearing, the security around the prison and in the state — where the guru apparently has a considerable following — was tightened. 

Reports state that the incident came to light when a teenager filed an FIR against the spiritual guru in New Delhi's Kamla Nagar police station on Aug. 20, 2013, after which authorities conducted some medical tests. 

Asaram was arrested on Aug. 31, 2013, and was charged with sexual assault, rape and illegally confining a minor, according to the 1,300-page charge-sheet filed by the Rajasthan Police.

The girl, at the time of the incident, was visiting one of Asaram's ashrams to cure her of evil spirits. In her complaint, the unidentified girl said she was asked to perform oral sex and was touched inappropriately. The girl’s family had said at the time they had been followers of Asaram for more than a decade. 

Apart from this case, Asaram is on trial for a different case where two sisters from the Indian state of Gujarat have accused him and his son Narayan Sai of sexual assault. 

Asaram’s high-profile case is just one of the many ongoing rape cases in India that have encouraged public protests and raised several questions about how rape victims are being treated by the police. 

In August last year, another popular Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers. He was found guilty of raping the two women from a case dating back to 2002 at the headquarters of his Dera Sacha Sauda group in the town of Sirsa in Haryana. 

At the time of his hearing, a senior government official, Ram Nivas had said that mobile internet services were suspended in the Indian states of Haryana and Punjab in order to stop people from spreading any rumors.