A Central Bureau of Investigation court on Monday sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 20 years in prison for raping two of his followers in 2002. This is a consecutive sentence, which means the self-styled godman has to serve a 10-year term in jail for each case against him one after the other.
Reports had earlier misinterpreted the judgment to say that Ram Rahim was sentenced to only 10 years in jail for the cases registered 15 years ago. The administrations of Haryana, Delhi and Punjab have increased security in the region, anticipating more violence by the Dera chief’s followers.
Judge Jagdeep Singh, who was flown to Rohtak to pronounce the quantum of sentence, also fined him Rs 30 lakh – Rs 15 lakh for each case – and asked him to pay Rs 14 lakh each to both complainants. The CBI said it will appeal for a life term for the self-styled godman, but his lawyer SK Narwana said they will challenge the verdict at the High Court.
Here is how the day unfolded:
10.10 pm: A Haryana government official told PTI that those who instigated the violence in the state, after Ram Rahim was convicted in the rape case, are being identified and will be punished.
9.40 pm: Curfew in place in Punjab’s Barnala. It will be in effect till 9 am tomorrow.
7.15 pm: CBI Spokesperson Abhishek Dayal clarifies that Ram Rahim will serve 20 years in jail. “Both sentences will run consecutively,” he said.
7.10 pm: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar appeals to Dera Sacha Sauda supporters to maintain peace. Law and order situation will not be allowed to be disturbed,” he said. “Strict action will be taken against those who try to disturb peace in the state.”
6.42 pm: Ram Rahim’s lawyer SK Narwana tells reporters he will “read the judgement in detail and definitely appeal in higher courts”.
6.38 pm: The police said 37 companies, which is 3,700 security personnel, have been deployed in Haryana. Four companies have been stationed in Punjab.
6 pm: Barnala in Punjab will be under curfew from 9 pm today to 9 am tomorrow, says Senior Superintendent of Police Harjeet Singh.
5.30 pm: Inspector General of Sirsa AS Dhillon gives his assurance that “no guilty will be spared” in the Haryana Police’s investigation into the violence by Dera supporters. “There has been no incident of violence today after the sentencing,” the police said, adding that they are trying to identify those who instigated the riots on Friday.
5.05 pm: The Indian Army conducts a flag march in Haryana’s Panchkula, which was worst hit by the riots that followed Ram Rahim’s conviction in the rape case on Friday.
5 pm: Security forces carry out a flag march in Barnala, Punjab, after Ram Rahim’s sentencing. The superintendent of police said it had been peaceful so far, “given the adequate security arrangements made”.
4.59 pm: Ramdev says Ram Rahim’s sentencing shows that “no one can escape the law”.
4.55 pm: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh says curfew will be imposed at a couple of places today. It will be lifted tomorrow after the security situation is reviewed. Internet services may also be restored.
4.29 pm: Anshul Chhatrapati, the son of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati who was killed for allegedly exposing the rape cases against Ram Rahim 15 years ago, tells ANI he is satisfied with the verdict. “We have been saying since long that Ram Rahim Singh is an enemy of our society,” he said.
4.15 pm: The Indian Army conducts a flag march in Haryana’s Sirsa, where the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters is located.
4.05 pm: The director general of Haryana Police will hold a press conference at 5 pm on the security situation in the state following Ram Rahim’s sentencing.
4.03 pm: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar calls for an emergency meeting with senior state officials, party leaders and ministers at his house in Chandigarh,
3.55 pm: Singh will not be given special amenities in prison. The CBI court said he will be treated like any other “ordinary convict”.
3.48 pm: Much drama reported from the courtroom, as Singh is said to have been forcefully removed and in tears. Family members of the women he raped have asked for a longer sentence. The case was filed after he had raped two women in 2002.
3.45 pm: The CBI counsel says they will move the court for a longer sentence. “We would have been happier if it was a life term,” DNA reported the lawyer as saying. However, Ram Rahim Singh’s lawyer says he will appeal at the High Court.
3.44 pm: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh says the sentence should be respected and appeals for peace.
3.43 pm: Singh’s victims have reportedly asked for a longer sentence for him.
3.35 pm: A medical examination is being done, after which Singh will be allotted a jail cell.
3.29 pm: He has been given 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
3.26 pm: Extra security forces are being deployed outside the Rohtak court.
3.25 pm: Dera spokesperson asks supporters to remain peaceful.
3.21 pm: Dera supporters have torched two vehicles in Sirsa.
3.18 pm: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is holding a security review meeting, even as the CBI court judge reads out Ram Rahim Singh’s sentence.
3.05 pm: Arguments have been concluded.
3.02 pm: The CBI’s lawyer says the victims were raped for three years, News18 reports. He says more than 40 other victims have not been able to come forward because of Singh’s clout.
3 pm: Ram Rahim Singh is allegedly pleading for mercy and a lenient sentence.
2.50 pm: The defence asks for a lenient sentence and says Singh is a “social worker”, reports ANI. His counsel also claims his health is not good.
2.40 pm: The prosecution asks for the maximum punishment for Rahim Singh, which is a life sentence.
2.35 pm: The judge has allotted ten minutes to both sides to put forth their arguments.
2.30 pm: The hearing has begun.
2.25 pm: Reports suggest that CBI counsel will press for a life term for the Dera Sacha Sauda chief.
2.20 pm: Special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh has reached the Sonaria jail for the sentencing.
1.31 pm: High alert order issued in western Uttar Pradesh. Police superintendents have been given a free hand to implement Section 144 and avoid any breach in law and order, IANS reported.
12.53 pm: A civil surgeon has entered Rohtak jail to examine Singh after he complained of “experiencing uneasiness”, News18 reported. An ambulance was also seen at the premises.
11.51 am: “Objectionable items, including almost 100 batons, have been found,” said Rohtak range Inspector General of Police Navdeep Singh Virk after police personnel conducted a raid on the Dera Ashram in Bahalgarh. The search operation is still underway.
11.40 am: Karnal railway station deserted before verdict, ANI reported. .
11.29 am: Home Ministry orders officials to continuously monitor situation in the region.
11 am: Police and Rapid Action Force personnel conduct a flag march in Barnala before the verdict.
10.50 am: Home Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Intelligence Bureau officials are discussing the security situation before the sentencing at the North Block in Delhi, ANI reported.
The Dera Sacha Sauda chief was convicted in a rape case from 2002 on August 25. Following the conviction, supporters of Ram Rahim Singh indulged in violence and arson, leading to the deaths of 38 people and injuries to over 250.
On August 26, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had criticised the Manohar Lal Khattar government as well Prime Minister Narendra Modi for inaction over the number of casualties that took place after the verdict was announced. The court held the Haryana chief minister directly responsible for the chaos and accused him of protecting Dera Sacha Sauda. “You let a city like Panchkula burn for political gains,” the court had said.
Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of the story had erroneously said Ram Rahim was sentenced to 10 years in jail, not 20. The story has been update to reflect the change.