The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday admitted separate pleas filed by Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim challenging his 20-year sentence in rape case and that of the two victims seeking life imprisonment for him. The court also issued a notice to the CBI over Dera chief’s plea. “The revision petition filed by rape victims for enhancing the sentence to life imprisonment for Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been admitted,” victims’ counsel Navkiran Singh said. Both the pleas will now be heard together.
As the case came up for hearing, a division bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Sudhir Mittal directed Ram Rahim’s counsel to deposit Rs 30 lakh as fine, which was imposed by the special CBI court on Ram Rahim, with a bank within two months. However, his counsels told the court that he has “renounced the world” and is not in a position to pay the 30 lakh fine imposed by the trial court. The money is to be paid to the rape survivors.
Gurmeet’s counsel S K Garg Narvana told the division bench that all the Dera properties have been “attached” and he is not in a position to pay the 30 lakh fine imposed by the Special CBI Court.
However, the division bench while disposing off the appeal directed Gurmeet to deposit the amount within two months in the CBI Court Panchkula which will keep the same in a nationalised bank till the pendency of appeal.
The jailed Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 25, challenging the order of the special CBI Court of Panchkula which had sentenced him to 20-year-imprisonment for raping two disciples. The order was challenged on several grounds including delay of more than six years in recording the statements of the victims by the CBI.
Two rape victims had also moved the High court on October 4, seeking life imprisonment for the Dera Sacha Sauda chief. “In this case, the Dera sect chief was considered as ‘Pita Ji’ (father) by his followers. Victims were under emotional and physical custody of Dera chief and he broke their trust and misused his position as a religious and spiritual leader. Therefore, we sought life imprisonment instead of 20-year-sentence,” counsel Navkiran Singh said.
Ram Rahim was convicted by the special CBI court on August 25, following which violence and arson had erupted in Panchkula and Sirsa districts which left 41 people dead and left scores injured. Ram Rahim is currently lodged in Sunaria jail in Rohtak district.
In April 2002, an anonymous letter was written to the then Chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, complaining about alleged sexual exploitation of woman followers at Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa.
Then in May 2002, the High Court directed Sirsa district and sessions judge to probe the allegations in the letter. In September 2002, the high court had handed over the matter to the CBI after the district court indicated possibility of sexual exploitation.
(With PTI inputs)