'Godman' Rampal convicted in two murder cases, punishment next week; lawyer says verdict delivered in absence of counsel

Sixty-seven-year-old Rampal, a self-styled godman, was convicted by a court in Haryana's Hisar in two cases of murder on Thursday. The quantum of punishment will be announced on 16-17 October.

Rampal, who enjoys a huge fan following, is currently lodged at Hisar's Central Jail-2, reports have said. He was arrested in November 2015 after a two-week long stand-off between his followers and police which had left six dead and several others injured.

Rampal's lawyer released a statement on the matter, saying that he was not allowed to go inside the special court where the hearing was being held, and the court's decision has come in his absence, CNN-News18 reported. A special court was set up inside the jail — Hisar’s Central Jail-1 — to pronounce the judgment via video conference, The Indian Express reported. In the wake of the verdict, nearly 1,800 policemen were deployed to maintain law and order.

Chand Rathee, media in-charge of Rampal's Satlok Ashram, told The Indian Express earlier on Thursday that police had lodged six FIRs against Rampal and his supporters. “The court has already acquited Sant Rampal in two cases which include charges of taking followers hostage. In another two cases registered in connection with the six deaths, the court would pronounce its verdict today. Two other cases, including one lodged under the charges of sedition, are still pending in the court,” Rathee was quoted as saying.

File image of Sant Rampal. PTI

File image of Sant Rampal. PTI

The court found 29 persons, including Rampal, guilty in the case. The accused were convicted under sections 302, 120(b) and 343 of the Indian Penal Code.

Prior to the verdict, train operations from parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana to Hisar were stopped, ANI reported. The news agency also quoted Haryana district collector Ashok Kumar Meena as saying: "We have taken adequate measures to maintain law and order. Section 144 has been imposed across Hisar district. Around 2000 police personnel have been deployed."

Two cases of murder were registered against 67-year-old Rampal, the head of Satlok Ashram in Barwala in Hisar, in November 2014.

A tense ten-day standoff between some of his followers and security forces at his sprawling premises in November 2017 led to the death of five women and a one-year-old child. It was believed that they died because of suffocation inside the ashram. About 15,000 of Rampal's followers were evacuated from the godman's premises after the standoff.

It has also been alleged that some of his followers had been held hostage in the ashram during the standoff. Rampal's followers, during the clash with security forces, had used stones, acid and petrol bombs in their attack against security personnel.

The conflict began when the Punjab and Haryana High Courts told the government to produce Rampal in a contempt of court case. After that, Rampal's supporters surrounded the Satlok Ashram and prevented the police from entering its premises, spread over 12 acres of land.

One was registered against him and some of his followers under IPC Sections 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of his public function), 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (Assault or use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his duty).

The other was registered against Rampal and his followers — Purshotam Dass, Raj Kumar, Mohinder Singh, Rajender Singh, Rahul and 30-40 other persons — on a complaint under IPC Sections 147 (Rioting), 149 (Unlawful assembly, every other member of such assembly shall be guilty of the offence), 188 (disobedient to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant) and 342 (Wrongfully confining any person).


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Updated Date: Oct 12, 2018 07:11:45 IST

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