Gurmeet Ram Rahim sentenced to 20 years in jail, fined Rs 30 lakh; Dera chief to move HC against CBI court ruling
Rape convict Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Monday sentenced to 20 years jail for the rape and sexual exploitation of two female disciples
Rohtak (Haryana): Rape convict Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Monday sentenced to 20 years in jail in two rape cases for the rape and sexual exploitation of two female disciples and fined Rs 30 lakh.
The rapist sect chief has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in each of the two cases of rape. The rape victims will get Rs 14 lakh each as compensation from the fine. Both the sentences will run consecutively, the sect chief's counsel SK Garg Narwana said after the special CBI judge pronounced the sentence in the District Jail in Sunaria, which was brought under extraordinary security following Friday's violence.
Earlier, there was confusion over the term of the sentence, with reports that Ram Rahim was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Later, his counsel clarified the position.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court judge Jagdeep Singh, who announced the sentence, had on Friday held the Dera chief guilty of rape and criminal intimidation of the two female disciples in 1999.
The conviction of the Dera chief in the CBI court in Panchkula on Friday had sparked off large-scale violence by his followers which left 38 people dead and 264 others injured.
The hearing to decide the quantum of sentence started at 2.30 pm on Monday and the judge gave 10 minutes each to the defence and prosecution sides to make their submission, court sources said.
While Ram Rahim's counsel argued for leniency and minimum punishment saying that he was a social worker and had health issues, the CBI counsel sought maximum punishment given his conduct. The prosecution wanted the case to be treated as "rarest of the rare".
Following the announcement of his sentence, the Dera chief broke down and wept as he dropped down to the floor, according to media reports.
The self-styled godman had to be forcibly removed from the court as he refused to accompany the cops escorting him for medical checkups and further formalities while his lawyers tried to seek leniency in prison rules for the sect chief who is used to a life of ultra luxury. Ram Rahim was medically examined by doctors, led by the Rohtak chief medical officer (CMO), and found to be fine.
Ram Rahim's lawyers also confirmed they would move the Punjab and Haryana High Court to challenge his jail sentence, reported CNN-News18.
The sect chief has been convicted of two counts of rape (Section 376 IPC), criminal intimidation (Section 506 IPC) and Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). Here is a copy of the CBI court's judgment on the quantum of sentence:
The Dera chief was held in Rohtak jail (Prisoner No. 1997) after he was found guilty by the special CBI court on Friday. CBI judge Jagdeep Singh was flown to Rohtak on Monday to announce the sentence. The special courtroom within the jail was set up on the instructions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
A multilayer security cordon manned by police and 23 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in and around Rohtak and also around the jail. The army had been kept on standby while all routes to the jail were sealed.
The CBI filed the chargesheet against the Dera head in Ambala court in July 2007 about five years after the registration of the rape case. The chargesheet mentions sexual exploitation of two 'Sadhvis' (women followers) between 1999 and 2001.
The special CBI court framed charges against Ram Rahim under sections 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC in September 2008.
Between 2009 and 2010, the two complainants recorded their statements before the court.
The special CBI court shifted from Ambala to Panchkula and the case against Dera chief was also transferred to the Panchkula CBI Court.
In July 2017, the court ordered daily hearing and arguments of prosecution and defence were concluded on 17 August, 2017. It held Ram Rahim guilty of rape on 25 August.
Authorities are geared up to prevent a repeat of the mayhem on Friday by the followers of the Dera chief.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), prohibiting assembly of five or more persons, and carrying of firearms and other weapons, are already in place in Rohtak district.
On Monday, Dera Sacha Sauda followers set two vehicles on fire at Phulkan village near the sect headquarters on the outskirts of Sirsa town, minutes before the sentencing. Security forces rushed to the area to control the situation. Security deployment, including army and para-military forces, continued around the two campuses of the sect near Sirsa.
"We are in control of the situation. We have shown restraint so far. Some dera followers are still present inside the sect headquarters," V Umashamkar, special commissioner, told the media. Curfew continued in affected areas of Sirsa district.
Anshul Chhatrapati, the son of murdered Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati who had first exposed sexual exploitation of female disciples by the sect chief in 2002, on Monday said that their stand against Ram Rahim has been vindicated following his conviction and imprisonment.
He welcomed the CBI special court judgment. His father was shot dead, allegedly by sect supporters at the behest of the sect chief, in October 2002 after he wrote about shady activities inside the sect headquarters near Sirsa in his vernacular newspaper Poora Sach in 2002.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to the people accept the court verdict. He said that the Punjab government would continue to maintain constant vigil to ensure that peace is maintained in the state, with curfew to remain in force till needed.
As a precautionary measure, schools and other educational institutions remained shut in Haryana while these will also remain closed in sensitive districts in Punjab.
With inputs from PTI and IANS