By Nikita Goel
The court delivered its verdict in the case against the 50-year-old Dera Sacha Sauda chief after 15 long years. In 2002, the Punjab and Haryana high court took suomotu cognizance – action of its own accord – of the sadhvi’s letter to then PM Vajpayee, and directed the CBI to register a sexual exploitation case against the Dera chief in 2002. The case was then handed over to the CBI. The investigating agency questioned 18 sadhvis and two of them levelled allegations of rape against the spiritual leader. Their statements are part of the CBI chargesheet which was filed on July 30, 2007, in the CBI special court
The Dera chief apparently sobbed in the courtroom as he begged to be treated leniently and asked to be forgiven. During the arguments before the sentencing, the prosecution said no leniency should be shown and demanded the maximum sentence for Gurmeet Ram Rahim. The defence argued that the Dera chief is a social worker who has worked for the welfare of people, so judge should take a lenient view. Immediately after the sentencing, the Dera chief was taken in for a medical examination, after which he will be given a jail uniform and allotted a cell in jail.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim was on Friday ruled guilty of rape by the special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana. He was immediately taken into judicial custody but his followers in Haryana and Punjab went on the rampage resulting in the death of 38 people and crores of damage to public property.
To avoid a repeat of Friday’s violence, sentencing was held in a court specially set up inside the district jail premises in Sunaria near Rohtak, where Ram Rahim was brought and lodged after his conviction. CBI special court judge Jagdeep Singh was flown to Rohtakto pronounce the sentence.
A multi-layer security cordon was thrown around the Rohtak district jail by paramilitary forces and Haryana Police ahead of the sentencing. The Army was kept on stand-by. No movement of people, other than those authorized, was allowed within a distance of 10 km from the prison premises. Meanwhile, Panchkula, Sirsa, Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring areas were put on high alert, with paramilitary forces deployed in various pockets of the states. While Section 144 is already in place in Rohtak, curfew also continues to be enforced in Sirsa.
At many sensitive places in Punjab too, security forces conducted flag marches and kept a tight vigil in sensitive areas. Security was beefed up to prevent any untoward incident in Sirsa, the headquarters of Dera Sacha Sauda. Though the exodus of Dera followers from the sect’s headquarters in Sirsa began Saturday, several supporters of the self-styled godman are still present in and around the sprawling premises.
Mobile internet services will remain suspended in Haryana and Punjab till 11:30am on Tuesday. Internet lease lines on the premises of the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters at Sirsa will also be suspended till then. The Locals have been asked to stay indoors as a preventive measure.