A special CBI court Monday sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 20 years of imprisonment. CBI Judge Jagdeep Singh pronounced two sentences of 10 years rigorous imprisonment in each of the two cases that date back to 2002, said defence lawyer S K Garg Narwana. He said both sentences will run consecutively for a total of 20 years in jail for the flamboyant guru who has millions of followers and counts politicians as well as celebrities as his friends.
Singh also fined him Rs 15 lakh in each of the two cases, of which Rs 14 lakh each would go to the two victims who were part of his sect and were coerced into having sex with him. The defence counsel sought leniency from the court arguing that Ram Rahim was active in social work and had health issues. He said he will appeal against the orders in a high court.
“It is 20 years punishment and both the sentences shall not run concurrent. It means, he shall remain inside the jail for 20 years. Court has also imposed a fine of Rs. 30 lakh on Dera chief (Rs. 15 lakh in each of the case of two rapes that he committed). The fine shall be payable Rs. 15 lakh each to both the rape victims),” said HPS Verma, CBI counsel in the case.
The sentencing came three days after the CBI court in Panchkula held Singh guilty of rape. Due to risks of rising tensions in parts of Haryana and Punjab over the sentencing, the judge was flown into the special courtroom setup inside the Sunaria jail in Rohtak in a helicopter. A three-tier security ring was set up around the district jail.
During the hearing of arguments in the court before the sentencing, the prosecution asked for maximum punishment for Singh. The defence argued Singh is a social worker who has worked for the welfare of people and asked for leniency.
After Singh was convicted in the rape case on August 25, the followers of the Dera resorted to violent protests across several parts of Haryana and Delhi. At least 38 people were killed in the violent clashes, mostly in Panchkula. The administration has issued a stern warning to Dera followers and is keeping a close vigil on Rohtak and surrounding areas.