A Haryana court on Thursday convicted self-styled godman Rampal and 27 of his followers in two murder cases. Additional District and Sessions Judge, Hisar, D R Chaliya convicted the accused under Sections 302, 120(b) and 343 of the Indian Penal Code. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on October 16 and 17.
A special court was set up inside Hisar’s Central Jail-1 to pronounce the judgment via video conference. The self-styled godman is lodged in Hisar Central Jail 2. Rampal was arrested in November 2014 after a two-week long stand-off between his followers and police at his Satlok Ashram that had left four women and a child dead and several others injured.
Satlok Ashram’s media in-charge Chand Rathee said they would challenge the verdict before the High Court. “It’s an injustice to us. We will challenge the verdict before the High Court,” Rathee said. To prevent a repeat of the violence in Panchkula following the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in rape cases, nearly 1,800 policemen were deployed in Hisar and Section 144 was also clamped.
In 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered the police to arrest Rampal after he failed to appear before the court in connection with a 2006 murder conspiracy case. However, when police went to arrest him, Rampal and his aides barricaded themselves and holed themselves up inside his Satlok Ashram.
Later, police and Rampal’s followers clashed as security personnel tried to move into the ashram and four women and an infant lost their lives in the ensuing violence. Rampal was blamed for these deaths and was booked under murder charges.
The Hisar court in August 2017 had acquitted Rampal in two cases of wrongful confinement, unlawful assembly and disobedience to order given by a public servant. Founder of Satlok Ashram touted as a socio-cultural movement in Haryana, 63-year-old Rampal is the head of a religious sect called Kabir Panth.