An Ambala court Monday sentenced eight persons,including breakaway Sikh sect leader Piara Singh Bhaniarawala,to three years imprisonment and imposed on them a fine of Rs 1,000 each after holding them guilty of hurting the religious sentiments of Sikh community in two cases registered against them at Roper in Punjab.
Chief Judicial Magistrate,Ambala,A K Jain held Bhaniarawala,his followers Harjit Singh,Jaswinder Singh,Surmukh Singh,Surjit Singh,Bhupinder Singh,Ashok Kumar and Rajinder Singh guilty of blasphemy in both the cases,prosecution sources said..
However,later,all of them were granted bail by the court after they furnished of bail bonds of Rs 40,000 each.
The accused were convicted under Sections 295A (hurting religious sentiments),153-A (promoting enmity between different groups),188 (disobedience of orders of public servant) and 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the IPC.
Meanwhile,five other accused - Balwinder,Pritam,Sadhu,Karnail and Satnam - were acquitted as no sufficient evidences were found against them. Besides this,two accused had died during the trial period of the case.
The SAD (Maan) leaders raised slogans outside the courts complex demanding more stringent punishment to Bhaniarawala. They said they will move higher court seeking enhancement of quantum of punishment to Bhaniarawala. On the other hand,the sect leaders advocates said they will move the higher court seeking quashing of the sentence of the trial court.
In 2001,the Punjab Police had booked Bhaniarawala and 14 others for allegedly burning the pages of Guru Granth Sahib at a gurdwara in Morinda. While in one case,22 witnesses deposed against Bhaniarawala,another eight recorded their statements in the second case. Based on the evidence submitted by the prosecution and statements of witnesses,the court had convicted Bhaniarawala and seven others on Friday and pronounced the quantum of punishment Monday.
Earlier,Bhaniarawala had written book Bhavsagar Granth,in which he detailed the miracles performed by him. He placed the book released in 2001,parallel to Guru Granth Sahib,and asked his followers to pay obeisance to the Bhavsagar Granth. Several Sikh organisations had reacted sharply to the action and burnt several copies of his book in retaliation. Following this,Babas followers tore pages from Guru Granth Sahib and burnt them.
In all,six cases were registered against Bhaniarawala. All the six cases were transferred to Ambala court on the orders of Punjab and Haryana High Court. He was acquitted in three cases and now stand convicted in two,while another is still pending against him.
Tight security arrangements were made in and around the local courts complex here as the verdict was pronounced.