Three days after he convicted Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of rape, CBI court judge Jagdeep Singh, who was flown in a helicopter to Suneria jail near Rohtak Monday, sentenced the Dera Sacha Sauda chief to 20 years “rigorous imprisonment” — 10 years each for the rape of two disciples. Ahead of the sentencing, the prosecutor told the court that this was a case of “custodial rape” while the defence lawyer sought leniency, pointing to “social works” such as “motivating people to marry even prostitutes”.
The judge ruled that the Dera chief did not deserve “sympathy of the court” since his victims had placed him “on the pedestal of ‘god’ and revered him” but “he did not even spare his own pious disciples and had acted like wild beast”. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s actions, he said, reflected “irreparable damages caused… to the heritage of this ancient land”.
Ordering a compensation of Rs 14 lakh each to the two victims, the judge said the Dera chief committed breach of the “gravest nature” by “sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers”. “Such criminal acts of a particular convict who is stated to be heading a religious organisation known as Dera Sacha Sauda… are bound to shatter images of pious and sacred spiritual, social, cultural and religious institutions existing in this country since time immemorial, which in turn reflects irreparable damages caused by the acts of the convict to the heritage of this ancient land,” the judge said in his order.
“Acts of convict in sexually exploiting his own female disciples and intimidating them… is taken note of, and such kind of person do not deserve sympathy of the court… both the victims put the accused on pedestal of ‘god’ and revered him like that only.”
The judge also relied on a Supreme Court observation which, he said, stated that “the accused must realise that the crime committed by him has not only created a dent in the life of the victim but also a concavity in the social fabric”. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi to make the point that a woman has “greater courage” than a man: “Without her, man could not be.”
During arguments on the quantum of sentence, the CBI prosecutor said the act of the Dera chief was one of “custodial rape” and that he had “shattered the faith and exploited both the victims physically and psychologically”.
The CBI urged the court to treat it as the “rarest of rare case” which has “has larger implications for the entire society” and “accordingly, convict deserves maximum punishment for each count.convict is very influential figure and must be sentenced appropriately to send a deterring message for potential offenders… in case of awarding lesser than maximum punishment, it would shock the collective conscience of the nation”.
The Dera chief’s counsel sought leniency, saying the convict had “motivated” people to do social works including “tree plantation etc” and to “marry prostitutes”. “Convict is running maximum social work in the State of Haryana, especially when government of Haryana has failed to do such works… 133 welfare works are in progress under the able guidance of convict… the convict has motivated people to marry even prostitutes and has played commendable work in drug de-addiction,” his lawyer told the court.
The Dera chief’s health problems were also cited as a ground for leniency. The court was told that he suffered from hypertension, acute diabetes and severe backache problem for the last more than eight years. It was argued that “long incarceration” would affect his health adversely.
The sentencing of the Dera chief took place inside Suneria jail where he had been flown from Panchkula after his conviction on April 25. There was large-scale violence across the state immediately after the conviction. On Monday, the judge too was flown to the jail, around 10 km from Rohtak city. Since morning, police and paramilitary personnel manned entry and exit points to Suneria jail. “No violence was reported in the entire district. It was peaceful… Our teams manned various points and patrolled the area,” Rohtak SSP Pankaj Nain said.