A special CBI court in Panchkula on Thursday awarded life imprisonment to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and three others convicted in the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ramchander Chhatrapati.
The quantum of sentence was pronounced to the convicts through video conference on Thursday.
The three others convicted are carpenters Nirmal Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Dera manager Krishan Lal.
The 51-year-old is lodged at the Sunaria jail at Rohtak in Haryana where he is serving a 20-year prison sentence for the rape of his two female disciples after being convicted in August 2017.
Elaborate security arrangements were made in Panchkula and Sirsa -- headquarters of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect headed by self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh -- and other parts of Haryana to maintain law and order situation. Last year, violence had erupted in Panchkula and Sirsa following the conviction of the Dera chief leaving over forty persons dead and more than two hundred injured.
Chhatrapati was shot on October 24, 2002 by Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh by the licensed .32 bore revolver of Krishan Lal. He had later succumbed to his injuries on November 21, 2002, at Apollo Hospital at New Delhi. Both Kuldeep and Nirmal came on a scooter. Nirmal had managed to flee on the scooter but the police nabbed Kuldeep from the spot.
The police had recovered a walkie-talkie belonging to Dera Sacha Sauda and Krishan Lal’s .32 bore revolver from his possession. A case of murder was then registered but in their charge sheet the state police did name Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
Anshul Chattarpati, son of Chhatrapati was not satisfied with the police investigation so he moved to the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the court transferred the case to CBI on November 10, 2003.
In 2002, Chhatrapati had published an anonymous letter in his evening daily 'Poora Sach' which highlighted the plight of a female disciple who was allegedly harassed and sexually assaulted by the sect
chief. He had also accused the dera of exploiting female disciples along with other discrepancies in how the sect operated. Since then he started receiving threats.
Former driver of Ram Rahim, Khatta Singh, had told the court that it was the Dera chief who had ordered Chhatrapati’s killing in front of him.
The CBI charge sheet stated that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Krishan Lal, Nirmal Singh and Kuldeep Singh have committed offences punishable under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with Section 302 (murder) of Indian Penal Code.
Kuldeep and Nirmal also committed substantive offences under Section 302 of IPC (Murder). Nirmal also committed offences under Section 25/27 Arms Act.
"We have struggled for a long time against such an influential person. It was not a small task to expose him as the governments in the centre and state were sheltering him. But despite the hardships, we kept struggling. He adopted each and every tactic to delay the investigation and trial of the case. Despite a lot of pressure, the witnesses recorded their statements with honesty and CBI did a proper investigation. The judge is like god to our family. All the four convicted should be given m maximum punishment,’’ said Anshul Chhatrapati.
(With inputs from online desk)