The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday upheld the Haryana government’s decision of granting a furlough to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Live Law reported. The court said that Gurmeet Singh does not belong to the “hardcore prisoner category”.

The bench was hearing a petition challenging Singh’s release on parole during the Punjab Assembly elections that took place on February 20. Media reports had called his release a significant development ahead of the polls as he enjoys a significant influence in several Assembly seats in Punjab.

Petitioner Paramjit Singh Saholi had contended in the court that Singh’s release would affect Punjab’s peace, Live Law reported.

Saholi said in his plea that Singh was sentenced to prison in rape and murder cases, and so, he fell under the “hardcore prisoner” category, according to the Section 2(aa)(i)(8) of the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoner (Temporary Release) Amendment Act, 2013.

Meanwhile, the state’s counsel justified the furlough saying that Singh is “not convicted of a substantive offence under Section 302 [punishment for murder] of the Indian Penal Code”.

“His case does not fall in any of the subsections of Section 2(aa) of the Act,” the counsel said, Live Law reported.

According to PTI, the bench, after hearing both sides, disposed of the petition as infructuous as Gurmeet Singh had returned to jail after completing the furlough.

The case

In October, a special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Haryana’s Panchkula town had sentenced Gurmeet 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.

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.