Amidst high drama, Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Monday sentenced by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court to 20 years in jail — two sentences of 10 years each for two separate rapes that will run one after the other.
As the punishment was announced by CBI special judge Jagdeep Singh in a makeshift court at Rohtak’s Sunaria prison, the 50-year-old self-styled “godman” broke down, sought forgiveness with folded hands and squatted on the floor, refusing to leave, said sources who witnessed the proceedings.
The Dera chief has been punished for rape and criminal intimidation. He is also facing a separate trial in two separate murder cases in 2002 in which a Dera manager and Sirsa-based journalist were killed.
The CBI special judge, who handed down the punishment to Ram Rahim, was flown by helicopter to Rohtak from Panchkula.
The court announced the sentence against the cult guru at around 4 pm and slapped on him a fine of Rs 30 lakh — Rs 15 lakh for each of the two cases.
Out of this, Rs 14 lakh each will go to the two victims who were part of Ram Rahim’s sect and were coerced into having sex with him, 15 years ago.
The CBI has successfully kept the identity of the two victims under wraps since 2002 when the rapes came to light through an anonymous letter by two women, residing in the Dera as sadhvis, alleging rape by the Dera chief.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered a CBI probe after taking cognisance of the letter.
The verdict on Monday was followed by hours of confusion over the quantum of sentence as the initial reports indicated that Ram Rahim had been handed down a combined punishment of 10 years in the two rape cases.
Tight security arrangements in Rohtak and other parts of Haryana and Punjab ensured that there were no violent protests by Ram Rahim’s followers after the verdict.
No leniency to Ram Rahim, says special Judge
CBI spokesman Abhishek Dayal clarified that Ram rahim had been sentenced to two consecutive 10-year jail terms.
Meanwhile, a luxury car was allegedly set on fire on Monday evening at Kotli village near Sirsa around the time the Dera chief’s sentence was announced in court, the police said, adding they were probing if the incident involved Dera followers.
All eyes now are on Hisar where a judicial magistrate, Mukesh Kumar, is likely to deliver a verdict on Tuesday in two criminal cases slapped against another controversial godman, Sant Rampal, who is in judicial custody since his arrest from his fortified Satlok Ashram near Barwala in Hisar in 2014.
Six people were killed when his followers attacked the police at the time of his arrest.
During arguments before sentencing in the Dera case, the prosecution said no leniency should be shown to the convict and demanded a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for him.
The defence sought leniency on the ground that the Dera chief was a social worker who had worked for the welfare of people.
The victims revered Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on the pedestal of God but he committed breach of the gravest nature, the special court said while refusing any leniency.
The situation remained calm in contrast to the violence unleashed by his followers in Panchkula and Sira, among other areas, on Friday after he was held guilty.
A total of 38 people were killed in the rioting and arson.
Meanwhile, a victim of violence, arson and looting by the supporters of Ram Rahim, involved in a rape case, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court for a direction to the Centre and States of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to take steps to protect public properties from violence.
The petition filed by Mohd Sakil, a Delhi resident, through his lawyer Vijay Panjwani wanted the court to frame a mechanism and issue guidelines to all the states fixing responsibility on the Chief Minister and other ministers as well as the bureaucrats to maintain law and order and to take steps to protect public properties.