Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Monday sentenced to 10-year rigorous imprisonment by a special CBI court in a 15-year old rape case. CBI special court judge Jagdeep Singh, who was flown in to Rohtak jail for the pronouncement of quantum of sentence, also imposed a fine of Rs 65,000 on the self-styled godman. The Dera chief, who pleaded for leniency before the court, broke down after the judge pronounced the quantum of sentence. Ram Rahim was convicted under Section 377 (rape), Section 506 (criminal intimidation) and Section 511 (insulting the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for raping two of his followers.
The judge awarded the 10-year jail term after hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence by prosecution and defence lawyers. Ram Rahim reportedly broke down and asked for forgiveness with folded hands when the sentence was read out. He even refused to leave the courtroom.
The judge was flown in to Sunaria jail in Rohtak where Ram Rahim, 50, had been lodged since his conviction on Friday. A makeshift court was created in the jail library for the proceedings and a multi-layered security cordon was thrown around the Rohtak jail. The precaution was taken following widespread violence on Friday after his conviction where at least 38 people died in Haryana. Judge Jagdeep Singh arrived in Rohtak in a helicopter, landing on a helipad near the jail located on the outskirts of Rohtak.
Haryana remained calm today and no major case of violence was reported from the state. In Sirsa, where the Dera headquarters is based, two vehicles were torched down, allegedly by Ram Rahim's followers.
The powerful Dera chief was found guilty of rape in a case that came into public domain after an anonymous written complaint in April 2002. A journalist who reported on the case and published the written complaints was killed in 2002, allegedly by Dera followers.
Anshul Chhatrapati, son of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati said the verdict was “a tribute to the memory of my father.”
The case was registered by the CBI in December 2002 on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The CBI filed the chargesheet against the Dera head in Ambala court in July 2007.
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 Panchkula CBI Court. In July 2017, the court ordered daily hearing and arguments of prosecution and defence were concluded on August 17, 2017.
Heavy security cordon in Rohtak
After heavy criticism following the violence on Friday, the Haryana government went to extraordinary lengths to ensure security in the state.
In Rohtak, a multi-layer security cordon manned by police and 23 companies of paramilitary forces was thrown. The Army has been kept on standby while all routes to Sunaria jail were sealed.
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, were put in place in Rohtak district.
Rohtak Deputy Commissioner Atul Kumar said police will not hesitate to open fire again at those spreading violence. "It is a challenging situation, but we are prepared", Kumar said.
"We are prepared to deal with any unscrupulous element who may try to create trouble ... if there is any such element who indulges in any act of violence endangering innocent lives, if he does not pay heed to warnings then shoot-at-sight will be used against him. Action will be taken as the situation demands," he said.
"We have clarity of thought, we are not confused. If we feel any person is endangering lives of innocent people and is causing damage to property, then shoot-at-sight will be used (to deal in such a situation)," he said.
Haryana DGP B S Sandhu also said that "maintaining law and order is the top priority for the Haryana Police today."
Rohtak Range IG, Navdeep Singh Virk said no Dera follower will be allowed to enter Rohtak district or come near the jail. "For that we have set up special barricades across the entire Rohtak district," he said.
As a precautionary measure, schools and other educational institutions remained shut in Haryana while these will also remain closed in sensitive districts in Punjab.