Rohtak: The Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who was held guilty on charges of rape of a female devotee in 1999, was on Monday sentenced to twenty years in prison by the Special CBI Court of Panchkula, ten years each for two rape cases that will run consecutively and not concurrently.
The CBI court also fined the Dera chief Rs 30 lakh for three seperate offences including attempt to murder and criminal intimidation. The court allowed him a seperate cell, but no attendants or special facilities.
After the verdict, the 50-year old self-styled Godman was seen weeping profusely as he sat on the floor outside the outside. He was then forcibly taken away by the security personnel.
While the CBI lawyer termed it a victory for the process of justice, the defence counsel argued that the court had given him a light sentence in view of his work for social causes. He also said an appeal would be filed in the high court against the CBI court order.
The Special Judge Jagdeep Singh, along with the court staff, was flown in from Chandigarh by helicopter earlier in the morning. Singh had allotted 10 minutes each to both sides to put forth their arguments. The prosecution, reportedly, had demanded the maximum punishment for the rape convict.
Rohtak was placed on high alert for the hearing. Rohtak deputy commissioner Atul Kumar had earlier declared that shoot at sight orders have been issued. He added that a three-tier security ring has been put in place around Sunaria district jail, where Ram Rahim is lodged, with 4,000 security personnel manning the area.
Just minutes before the pronouncement of the sentence, two cars were reportedly torched by the Dera Sacha Sauda supporters in the Phoolka area of Haryana's Sirsa.
Ram Rahim was convicted with the charges of rape on Friday (August 25) by the Special CBI Court.
The rape case was registered by the CBI in April 2002 against the self-styled godman after allegations of sexual exploitation of two women followers. The then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had received an anonymous letter from a Dera Sadhvi that she was being raped by Ram Rahim.
Following Ram Rahim's conviction on Friday, his 'bhakts' went on a rampage in Haryana's Panchkula and Sirsa, demanding justice for their leader and Punjab, Haryana and their neighbouring states have, since, been on the edge.
In what was seen as a massive upheaval, an ocean of people resorted to vandalising public property - by destroying public transport, burning vehicles and even attacking the media.
Haryana Director General of Police (DGP) B.S. Sandhu revealed that 52 cases were registered and 926 people arrested so far. As for casualties, 38 people died in the violence; six casualties from Sirsa and 32 from Panchkula were reported. Also, over 250 people were injured.
Following this, arrangements were made for the sitting of a CBI Court in the Sunaria District Jail, where the rape convict is currently stationed, for the pronouncement of quantum of the sentence.
Rohtak District Collector (DC) Atul Kumar also stated that if any anti-social elements are spotted trying to harm themselves or others, shoot at sight orders will be passed immediately.
Additionally, to avoid unnecessary movement of vehicles around the Sunaria Jail, schools and colleges remained closed.
Ahead of the proceedings, Inspector General (I.G.) of Police, Rohtak Range Navdeep Singh Virk said that few weapons were recovered from Bahalgarh's Dera Ashram in the Sonepat district, and that a search operation was underway.
A total of 1,500 district policemen, 500 from other districts and 23 paramilitary companies were deployed at Rohtak's boundaries.
Also, 37 companies of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) were kept ready to be utilised at the time of any untoward situation in Sirsa.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had also directed National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Director, Intelligence Bureau, Dineshwar Sharma, to continuously monitor the situation in Punjab and Haryana.