Chandigarh: A special CBI court in Panchkula on Tuesday (October 12) deferred till October 18 the pronouncement of quantum of punishment to Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and four others in a murder case. According to a CBI counsel, the dera chief pleaded leniency, citing welfare works done by the dera.
However, the CBI opposed it and demanded the “maximum punishment” under the IPC Section 302. The special court had convicted them on Friday in the murder case of a dera manager, Ranjit Singh.
The other convicted for the crime are Krishan Lal, Jasbir Singh, Avtar Singh and Sabdil. The proceedings in the court began amid tight security arrangements. Statements of the convicts were recorded first.
“The counsel of some other convicts sought time stating that they are not ready with arguments as they have to go through the judgments cited by the prosecution,” CBI special prosecutor HPS Verma told reporters outside the court. On their request, the court deferred the sentencing till October 18, he said.
Verma said the dera chief pleaded for leniency and had also send his written statement, in which he highlighted social works done by the sect like blood donation camps, eye check-up camps, tree plantation drives and assistance at various places during natural calamities. The dera chief also cited his health problems, including blood pressure, eye and kidney ailments.
However, the CBI opposed any leniency and cited some judgments of the apex court and on the basis of that asked for maximum sentence. When specifically asked if the CBI has sought death penalty, Verma said, “We have sought maximum sentence prescribed under Section 302 of the IPC.”
Replying to a question, he said under Section 302 IPC, the minimum sentence is life imprisonment and the maximum sentence is death penalty. When asked about Ram Rahim’s body language as he appeared through video-conferencing, he said, “All I can say is that he was sitting in the jail. He was provided a chair and was sitting there, this is all I can say.”
In Panchkula, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were clamped. Police had also tightened security in Sirsa, where the sect is headquartered, in anticipation that sentence could be pronounced by the court on Tuesday.
The dera chief, who is currently lodged in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail since his conviction in 2017 for raping his two disciples, appeared through video-conferencing, the other four were present in the court. One accused in the murder case had passed away a year ago. Former dera manager Ranjit Singh, who was also a follower of the sect, was shot dead in 2002. He was murdered for his suspected role in the circulation of an anonymous letter, which narrated how women were being sexually exploited by the dera head.
According to the CBI charge sheet, the cera chief believed that Ranjit Singh was behind the circulation of the anonymous letter and hatched a conspiracy to kill him.
Over two years ago, he was also awarded life imprisonment for the murder of a journalist, Ram Chander Chhatrapati.