The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday told the Haryana government that Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is serving a 20-year jail term, cannot be granted parole without the court’s permission, reported NDTV.

Singh was sentenced to 20 years of 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.

On January 18, Singh, who is lodged in Rohtak district’s Sunaria Jail, was granted a 50-day parole. This was his seventh parole in the last 24 months and ninth in the last four years.

A prisoner is granted parole based on an urgent demand or need. A furlough can be given without any reason after serving a stipulated amount of time in prison.

The High Court on Thursday directed the Haryana government to ensure the surrender of Ram Rahim on March 10, the day his parole is ending. It also asked the state to provide details of other prisoners who have been granted parole in a similar manner.

The court was hearing a petition by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which manages gurudwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, seeking the cancellation of Singh’s January parole.

The committee has on several occasions raised objections against repeated paroles granted to Singh.

In November, 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.”

In March last year, the Punjab government had told the High Court that granting frequent parole to Singh may lead to law and order problems in the state.

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 and cannot be termed a serial killer.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had also said that he would not interfere with the parole granted to Singh.