Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim and three others were on Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati, who was shot dead at his house on October 24, 2002.
The four accused in the case, Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim, former Dera manager Krishan Lal, two carpenters — Nirmal Singh and Kuldeep Singh, were held guilty by a special CBI court in Panchkula on January 11. They were produced in the court through video conferencing. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is lodged at District Jail Sunaria in Rohtak, while the other three are lodged at Central Jail, Ambala.
On Thursday, the special court of CBI judge Jagdeep Singh also slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 on all four convicts. Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal were also sentenced to three years imprisonment under Section 25 and 29 of Arms Act, respectively.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is already serving a jail term after being convicted in two rape case on on August 25, 2017. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail in each of the two cases, taking the total punishment to 20 years.
The sentence of life imprisonment in the case of journalist’s murder against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh will start after he completes 20 years’ imprisonment in the two rape cases. While the CBI had demanded capital punishment for all the accused, the court held that the crime did not fall in the category of rarest of rare.
Court proceedings started at 2.15 pm Thursday and the sentence was announced at 6.15 pm in the presence of four convicts through video conferencing, their defence counsels, CBI counsel H P S Verma, son of the slain journalist Anshul Chhatrapati, and CBI SP Satish Dagar, who was the probe officer.
Chhatrapati’s son Anshul expressed satisfaction with the court decision. He said, “I welcome the court decision. After 17 years, my father has finally got justice.”
In May 2002, Poora Sach, a newspaper run by Ram Chander Chhatrapati published a news report about an anonymous complaint by a Sadhvi about sexual exploitation of Sadhvis in Dera Sacha Sauda. Kuldeep and Nirmal shot at Chhatrapati on October 24, 2002 with Dera manager Krishan Lal’s licensed .32 bore revolver.