During the sentencing, the court said that Gurmeet Ram Rahim acted like a “wild beast” who did not even spare his own “pious” female disciples.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation court on Monday sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 20 years in jail for rape of his two followers, holding he acted like a “wild beast” who did not even spare his own “pious” female disciples.
The court also said that Ram Rahim, 50, committed breach of gravest nature by sexually assaulting “such gullible and blind followers” and that he did not deserve any leniency.
Judge Jagdeep Singh in his 9-page order pronounced two sentences of 10 years rigorous imprisonment in each of the two rapes that date back to 2002, three days after the conviction of the Dera chief that sparked violence leaving 38 dead and scores injured in Haryana.
Defence lawyer S K Garg Narwana told reporters that both the sentences will run “consecutively” for a total of 20 years in jail for the Dera chief, who has millions of followers and counts politicians as well as celebrities as his friends. He said the orders will be challenged.
The judge also fined the 50-year-old flamboyant guru Rs 15 lakh in each of the two offences, of which Rs 14 lakh each would go to the two victims who were part of his sect and were allegedly coerced into having sex with him.
“Having due regard to the peculiar fact and circumstances of the case, the court is of the view that if acts of the convict in sexually exploiting his own female disciples and intimidating them of dire consequences is taken note of, then such kind of persons does not deserve any kind of leniency from the court,” he said. “The convict did not even spare his own pious disciples and acted like a wild beast.”
“Both the victims put the accused on the pedestal of God and revered him like that only. However, the convict committed breach of gravest nature by sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers.
“Such criminal act of a particular individual/convict who is stated to be heading a religious organisation known as Dera Sachha Sauda is bound to shatter images of pious and sacred spiritual social cultural and religious institutions existing in the country since time immemorial,” the judge said.
CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal also said that Ram Rahim will undergo a 10-year sentence in each of the two rape cases. The sentences will run consecutively and the total jail term is 20 years, he said in Delhi.
In another case of criminal intimidation (section 506 of IPC) the Dera chief has been sentenced to two years of imprisonment, Narwana said.
“In section 506 of IPC, his term will run concurrently,” he said.
A large number of weapons like guns, revolvers and 52 petrol bombs have been recovered in Punjab during a crackdown following the mayhem caused by the followers of self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, an official spokesman said.
At least 133 people have been arrested for defying police orders and under other relevant sections of the IPC while 62 have been taken into preventive custody as part of the crackdown, the spokesman said.
As per the details provided by the state government, during the search operation, 52 petrol bombs, one 12 bore gun, one revolver, cartridges, 25 litre diesel, 80 lathis, axes, iron rods, two and four wheelers, among other material, were recovered.
The defence counsel sought leniency while submitting that Dera chief was 50 years old and suffering from hyper-tension, acute diabetes and sever back-ache problem for last eight years. He also said that his client is into social work.
The CBI counsel told the court that the Dera chief had projected himself as a godman and took undue advantage of his position and committed the rapes.
“This is not an ordinary case but rarest of rare case which has larger implications for the entire society and accordingly the convict deserves maximum punishment,” the counsel said.
Media reports said Ram Rahim broke down and begged for forgiveness with folded hands when the first sentence was passed. He then refused to leave the court room, in the jail library, said the reports.
On August 25, Ram Rahim was held guilty by the special CBI court of judge Jagdeep Singh in Panchkula, near Chandigarh.
The sexual exploitation case was registered against the Dera chief in 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court after anonymous letters were circulated about the alleged sexual exploitation of two ‘sadhvis’ (female followers) by Ram Rahim Singh.
The sentence was passed in a makeshift court inside the Sunaria jail where Ram Rahim, is lodged since last Friday after he was convicted. The special courtroom was set up on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court.
The judge was brought to Rohtak by a helicopter from Chandigarh and landed at a helipad near the jail located on the outskirts of Rohtak.
Speaking to reporters in Sirsa, IAS officer V Umashankar also said the district authorities had ordered attachment of the Sirsa-based Dera’s accounts and compensation to those affected in the violence could be given from these.
“There was no report of any untoward incident and I hope that peace will be maintained,” Umashankar said.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar appealed to the people, especially the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, to respect the sentence pronounced by the CBI court and help in maintaining peace in the state.
“No person is above the law and everybody should respect the verdict delivered by the court,” he added.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has also been closely monitoring the situation, officials said.
On sentencing of the Dera chief, Amarinder said, “It was not a thing to be either welcomed or rejected”, while appealing to the people to “accept” the court verdict.
A multi-layer security cordon manned by police and 23 companies of paramilitary forces was thrown in and around Rohtak and also around the jail. The army has been kept on standby while all routes to the jail were sealed.
Haryana and Punjab remained on high alert with officials warning that violent miscreants will be shot at sight, describing the security situation as “challenging.”
Army personnel staged flag march and police and paramilitary personnel patrolled the streets in Sirsa, the headquarters of Dera Sacha Sauda, to maintain law and order after the sentencing of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
No untoward incident was reported in Sirsa after the pronouncement of the sentence against the Dera Sacha Sauda.
Curfew has been imposed in the wake of violence that claimed six lives and a joint command of army, police and administration is likely to take a call about it in view of restoration of peace, the official said.
Senior police officials said that despite peace, no relaxation was allowed in maintaining law and order and flag marches were held to build confidence among the locals and “discourage” miscreants.
Inspector General of Police (Hisar) A S Dhillon said that maintaining law and order was the top priority of the police and administration.