Self-proclaimed religious leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was on Monday granted a furlough for 21 days, the Hindustan Times reported, citing jail officials. Singh is currently lodged in Sunaria jail in Haryana’s Rohtak district after being convicted in separate cases of rape and murder.

In October, a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Haryana’s Panchkula town had sentenced Singh and four others to life imprisonment for the murder of a former manager of the sect. He is also serving a 20-year term in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail for raping two of his followers.

Haryana Jail Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala said inmates get the right to be granted furlough after completing three years of conviction, reported The Indian Express.

“Like other inmates, Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s request application was also examined by the requisite committee that deals with such cases and his request was allowed,” Chautala added.

The Dera Sacha Sauda leader has received paroles on earlier occasions too, but they have been short-term ones – from sunrise to sunset – to meet his ailing mother.

The religious leader’s release is being seen as a significant development ahead of Punjab Assembly polls, according to media reports. He enjoys a significant influence in several Assembly seats in Punjab, which will vote on February 20.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, however, said that the furlough has nothing to do with elections. He stressed that the Dera chief received furlough according to the provisions.