Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and four others were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special Central Bureau of Investigation court on Monday for the murder of sect manager Ranjit Singh in 2002.
The Dera chief, who is lodged in Rohtak's Sunaria jail since his conviction in 2017 for raping two disciples, appeared through video-conferencing, while the other four were present in the court in Haryana's Panchkula.
CBI special prosecutor H P S Verma said Ram Rahim Singh's life sentence will run concurrently with the life term awarded to him in the journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati murder case in 2019.
Special CBI judge Sushil Kumar Garghad had convicted Ram Rahim Singh and four others - Krishan Lal, Jasbir Singh, Avtar Singh and Sabdil - in the murder case on October 8.
“The court has given the life sentence to five,” Verma said after the hearing was held amid tight security on Monday.
The CBI had sought capital punishment for them.
The court had convicted them under sections 302 (murder), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the IPC.
They were given a three-year jail term each under section 506 of the IPC.
Verma said the Dera chief was also fined Rs 31 lakh, Avtar Singh was fined Rs 75,000, Sabdil Rs 1.50 lakh and Jasbir and Krishan Lal Rs 1.25 lakh each.
The CBI special prosecutor said half of the fine amount will go to the victim's family as compensation.
Asked about Ram Rahim Singh's conduct during the hearing, Verma said, "He was respectful".
Reacting to the verdict, Jagseer Singh, son of Ranjit Singh, said it was a big day for the family as they got justice after a long wait.
Jagseer, who was eight years old when his father was murdered, said he was satisfied with the verdict, though his family was seeking a death sentence for Ram Rahim Singh.
The Dera chief, who enjoyed a large following, had frequently courted controversies and after his conviction in the rape case in 2017, violence had broken out in Panchkula and Sirsa leaving over 40 dead.
Police had tightened security in Panchkula and Sirsa, where the sect is headquartered, ahead of the hearing.
In Panchkula, prohibitory orders under Section 144 were clamped.
Former Dera manager Ranjit Singh, who was also a follower of the sect, was shot dead on July 10, 2002 at Khanpur Kolian village in Haryana's Kurukshetra.
According to the CBI chargesheet, the Dera chief believed that Ranjit Singh was behind the circulation of an anonymous letter and hatched a conspiracy to kill him.
The letter narrated how women were allegedly being sexually exploited by the sect head at the Dera headquarters.