Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Monday sentenced to 20 years in jail for rape of his two followers. The special CBI court that pronounced the sentence from a makeshift court in Rohtak jail said Dera chief acted like a "wild beast" who did not even spare his own "pious" female disciples. CBI special court judge Jagdeep Singh, who was flown in to Rohtak jail for the pronouncement of quantum of sentence, also fined the self-styled godman Rs 30 lakh, of which Rs 14 lakh each would go to the two victims.
The Dera chief, who pleaded for leniency before the court, broke down after the judge pronounced the quantum of sentence. The court, however, said that he committed breach of gravest nature by sexually assaulting "such gullible and blind followers" and that he did not deserve any leniency.
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 two victims were part of his sect and were allegedly coerced into having sex with him.
What Jagdeep Singh said in 9-page order
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. Later, Ram Rahim's lawyer S K Garg Narwana told reporters that both the sentences will run "consecutively", meaning Dera chief will have to spend 20 years in jail.
"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," the judge said in his order. "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 religous 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. He said the orders will be challenged.
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 defence counsel sought leniency while submitting that Ram Rahim was 50 years old and suffers 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.
Besides CBI judge Jagdeep Singh, three defence counsels, and an equal number of CBI advocates were present. The CBI counsel said the court proceedings started at 2.30 pm. Initially the defence lawyers read out citations followed by the CBI for ten minutes each.
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.
About the case
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
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.
After heavy criticism following the violence on Friday, the Haryana government went to extraordinary lengths to ensure security in the state. The conviction of the Dera chief on Friday sparked massive violence leaving 38 dead and scores injured in Haryana. The
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.
"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.
Dera chief stood with folded hands, broke down in court
As his sentence was being pronounced by the judge in a CBI court, Ram Rahim stood with folded hands in the courtroom and, upon learning his fate, broke down. Ram Rahim is known as the 'Guru of Bling' due his penchant for flashy outfits. Today, however, he was attired in a white kurta-pyjama with matching white shoes as the judge sentenced him to 20 years in jail, a CBI counsel said.
"It took the judge just a minute to pronounce the quantum of sentence," the counsel said. "He kept standing silently with folded hands and even cried."