Self-styled godman and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and his three aides were on Thursday sentenced by a Haryana court to life imprisonment for the murder of a journalist over 16 years ago.
Ram Rahim, 51, is currently serving a 20-year prison term in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail for raping two of his followers. After the punishment handed down to him for the killing of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati, he will have to spend the rest of his life in prison.
CBI special judge Jagdeep Singh in Panchkula sentenced the convicts — Ram Rahim, Nirmal Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Krishan Lal — to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on each of them. All the four were convicted under Section 302 (murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. Chhatrapati, 52, was shot in October 2002 outside his house after his newspaper, Poora Sach, published an anonymous letter narrating how women were being sexually exploited by Ram Rahim at the Dera headquarters in Sirsa. The case was registered in 2003 and handed over to the CBI in 2006. The Dera chief was named the main conspirator in the murder.
After Thursday’s sentencing in court, Chhatarpati’s son Anshul said, “This is the triumph of truth, I feel relieved today. The prosecution had demanded capital punishment but we are satisfied with the punishment.”
The court also awarded a three-year sentence to Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal under the Arms Act along with a fine of `5,000 each, said CBI counsel H.P.S. Verma.
“The life sentence of Ram Rahim will start after he completes his 20-year jail term in the rape case,” said the CBI counsel, citing provisions of Section 427 of the CrPC.
As per Section 427 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, when a person already undergoing imprisonment is sentenced on a subsequent conviction to imprisonment for life, such imprisonment shall commence at the expiration of the imprisonment to which he has been previously sentenced.
Mr Verma said that the CBI had sought death penalty for the convicts while counsel of Ram Rahim pleaded for minimum punishment in the murder case.
The arguments between CBI and defence counsel on the quantum of sentence lasted almost an hour and a half and the sentence was pronounced at 6.30 pm, Mr Verma said.
The Dera Sacha Sauda chief and the three others appeared before the court through video conferencing after the court accepted Haryana government’s plea that physically bringing Ram Rahim to court could result in a law and order situation.
Ram Rahim’s conviction in the rape case in August 2017 had triggered riots in Panchkula, as his followers went berserk, that left 30 dead and property worth crores vandalized.
Security had been stepped up in parts of Haryana and Punjab ahead of the sentencing. Strict vigil was being kept near the court complex in Sector 1 of Panchkula, adjoining Chandigarh.
Security measures were also ensured in Sirsa town. Most shops remained shut around the Dera headquarters in the town.