Gurmeet Ram Rahim sentencing today in murder case

Ram Rahim and four others were convicted on 8 October for the murder of Ram Rahim’s former manager Ranjit Singh in 2002

File image of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Getty Images

A special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana, is expected to pronounce the quantum of punishment for Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and four others in a murder case. They were convicted on 8 October for the murder of Ram Rahim’s former manager Ranjit Singh in 2002. The other convicted in the murder case of Ranjit Singh are Krishan Lal, Jasbir Singh, Avtar Singh and Sabdil.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code for Criminal Procedure (CrPC) have been imposed in the district. The security measure has been taken in view of August 2017 violence when 36 people were killed following Ram Rahim’s conviction in a rape case.

The Dera chief, presently lodged in Sunaria jail in Rohtak district, was convicted by the special CBI court in Panchkula on 25 August, 2017, for the rape of two women disciples and sentenced to 20-year imprisonment. On 17 January 2019, the same CBI court had sentenced him to life imprisonment for the 2002 murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati. The Punjab and Haryana HC had recently dismissed a plea seeking the case’s transfer to another judge.

Murder of Ranjit Singh

Ranjit Singh was a staunch follower of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and one of the managers at the Dera in Sirsa, Haryana.

He was shot dead on 10 July, 2002 for his suspected role in the circulation of an anonymous letter, which narrated how women followers (sadvis) were being sexually exploited by the sect head at the Dera headquarters. Subsequently, Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati who published the same in a news report was also murdered. According to the CBI charge sheet, the Dera chief believed that Ranjit Singh was behind the circulation of the anonymous letter and hatched a conspiracy to kill him.

The case

A sadhvi from the Dera Sacha Sauda wrote an anonymous letter to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002. In the letter, she alleged that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had raped her and other sadhvis, after which he warned her to keep quiet and boasted of his political clout in Haryana and Punjab. The Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognisance of the letter and referred the matter to the CBI for an enquiry in September that year.

After the CBI questioned a number of sadhvis who had left the Dera, two of the women who were questioned accused the Dera chief of raping of them. Subsequently, the CBI filed a charge sheet on 30 July, 2007.

On 17 August 2017, the special CBI court of Panchkula concluded hearing in the case but reserved pronouncing the verdict for 25 August.

For the 17 August hearing, Singh was recused from appearing in person at Panchkula by the court. The Dera chief had cited medical reasons for not attending court in person.

The hearing has been going on since 2007.

The punishment

While the CBI had sought death sentence for the Dera chief at the last hearing, Ram Rahim pleaded for mercy via video conference from Rohtak jail, where he is serving a 20-year term for raping his two followers.

Ram Rahim highlighted social works done by the sect, like blood donation camps, eye check-up camps, tree plantation drives and assistance at various places during natural calamities. He also cited his health problems, including blood pressure, eye and kidney ailments while pleading for mercy.

The CBI, meanwhile, opposed Dera chief’s plea saying the victim treated him as God and the accused committed offences against him. The agency also said he had criminal antecedents and committed the offence in a cold-blooded manner without provocation. It has demanded the “maximum punishment” under the IPC Section 302.

With input from agencies

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