Penguin Random House India has won a court case to release a book about a controversial Indian guru, Asaram Bapu, who was given a life sentence earlier this year for the rape of a minor.
Asaram, who was arrested in 2013 for raping a 16-year-old girl, was sentenced in April alongside two of his aides who were each given 20-year jail terms. The self-styled 'holy man' has grown his ashrams (spiritual retreats) from just one in 1972 to 400 in 19 countries today, in the process amassing more than 40 million followers worldwide.
God of Sin: The Cult, The Clout and Downfall of Asaram Bapu by investigative journalist Ushinor Majumdar, "faced opposition and its publication was challenged in court", a spokesman for PRH India said.
According to The Times of India, a plea was filed by Asaram's followers that sought a permanent injunction against publishing, releasing or selling the book on grounds that it defamed Asaram and his son, Narayan Sai (also in prison on charges of alleged rape), and because appeals in their cases were pending. The suit not only took aim at the book's author Majumdar and his publisher Penguin Books but e-tailers Amazon India and Flipkart.
But despite the plea, the book was given the greenlight by a Chandigarh court to publish on Saturday (15th December). The PRH India spokesman confirmed: "The honourable court has refused to stay publication and has allowed the book to be released. Overcoming these challenges, the book will now be available in retail and online stores today, 15th December, onwards."
In the blurb for God of Sin, Asaram, 77, is described as having popularised the practice of "using faith as a marketing tool" and having become "an example of everything that is wrong with self-styled godmen and the cults they spawn". On top of the 2013 sexual assault case, the book's description also refers to accusations against Asaram's aides of "exploitative black magic rituals", intimidation and murder, and alleges Asaram's commercial empire was built on "unaccounted donations, loans given on hefty rates of interest, investments in dubious companies, money laundering and dodgy real estate deals".
"God of Sin pieces together Asaram's journey to spiritual godhood, his fall from grace and the long and arduous road to bring him to justice," it summarises.
Reacting to the court order allowing its publication, author Majumdar said: "This book is a result of reportage based on the probes made by various enforcement agencies and court decisions. I have joined the dots through some firsthand reporting, digging into forgotten records and verification of facts. I am thankful that a court of law decided that there is no cause to keep a book from being released."
The Bookseller has contacted PRH for further comment.