Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Thursday urged his followers to keep the peace ahead of the verdict in a rape case against him expected on Friday. At midnight, Singh took to Twitter to tell his supporters gathered at Panchkula, Haryana, that “he respected the law and would appear in court despite a back problem”,

The Central Bureau of Investigation court in Panchkula is expected to pronounce its verdict around 2.30 pm, NDTV reported.

Prohibitory orders were put in place in Punjab and Haryana on Wednesday after lakhs of Singh’s supporters gathered at Panchkula before the verdict. The region is in lockdown, with over 400 paramilitary forces deployed in Chandigarh and Panchkula.

“The High Court order is that they should be told they will have to go,” a police official told NDTV on Thursday. “We are arranging for buses, and the entire night, exercises will be carried out to send them out of Panchkula.”

Schools, colleges and shops remained closed in both Chandigarh and Panchkula. Some 74 trains were cancelled to maintain law and order.

The sexual assault case

In 2002, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered a case to be registered against Singh after anonymous letters were circulated, claiming that the self-styled godman had raped at least two of his female followers.