Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Monday was granted furlough for 21 days, his third temporary release this year, reported PTI.
A furlough is a brief release for convicts serving long-term imprisonment. It is seen as a matter of right for prisoners, unlike parole, which is only granted for specific reasons.
Singh was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 2017 for raping two of his women disciples at the Dera headquarters in the Sirsa district. In 2021, he and four others were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in the murder case of Ranjit Singh, a former manager of his sect.
The 56-year-old is likely to get released from the Sunaria jail in Haryana’s Rohtak district on Tuesday, reported The Indian Express.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Harjinder Singh Dhami said that the “government’s repeated leniency” towards the sect leader is “creating an atmosphere of disbelief among the Sikh community”.
He added: “The political interests of the government are causing Ram Rahim’s gruesome offences to be overlooked, which is not in the best interest of the country.”
Singh has been granted temporary release from jail three times this year and six times in the last 21 months. In July, he walked out of the Sunaria jail on a 30-day parole and stayed at the Dera’s ashram in Barwana in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district.
He was granted a 40-day parole in January this year and October last year. Prior to that, Singh was released on month-long parole ahead of the Sangrur bye-election in Punjab in June 2022. In February last year, he was granted a 21-day furlough ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections. On one occasion, he was temporarily released on medical grounds as well.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had raised objections to Singh’s release in January and July as well. The committee had also filed a petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, demanding that an order of the Rohtak divisional commissioner which had granted Singh parole in January be quashed.
During the hearing, the Punjab government had told the High Court that granting frequent parole to Singh may lead to law and order problems in the state.
The state government also said that Singh was granted parole without any cogent reason.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Haryana government had supported Singh’s parole saying that the Dera Sacha Sauda chief does not fall under the definition of a hardcore prisoner.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, in January, also said that he would not interfere with the parole granted to Singh.
Khattar told reporters that the Dera Sacha Sauda chief must have been granted parole according to procedure, and it was his right to be given relief.