Coming straight to the core issue, a Special CBI Court set up in the Rohtak jail on August 28 sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for raping two sadhvis inside the Sirsa dera in 2002. The Judge handed down 10 years sentence each in the two rape cases. HPS Verma who is CBI counsel disclosed that, “The sentence shall not run concurrent. It means he shall remain inside the jail for 20 years. The court has also imposed a fine of Rs 30 lakh on the Dera chief, Rs 15 lakh in each of the two cases, which will be payable to the victims.” Counsel for the dera head, senior advocate SK Garg Narwana told journalists that both the jail terms would run consecutively, not concurrently and he would appeal the verdict to the High Court.
– Judge reaches Sunaria jail complex via chopper
– Court resumes hearing, the counsels reach the jail and present their version
– Accused reaches courtroom
– Judge sentences accused to rigorous imprisonment
2002: Anonymous letters addressed to the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the then Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana high Court alleged that sexual exploitation of women followers took place at the grand mansion of Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa. The sadhvis had accused Ram Rahim of rape. While most of the recepients chose not to react, the High Court took cognizance and directed the then District and Sessions Judge in Sirsa – MS Sular to conduct an inquiry into the matter. In his report, Sular did not rule out the possibility of such acts in dera but said nobody there was prepared to speak about the sexual abuse and there was no way to access the hostel where sadhvis were living without permission from Gurmeet Ram Rahim or authorities.
July 2002: The controversy deepened after a journalist – Ram Chander Chhatrapati is allegedly shot dead by Dera followers, as he was suspected to have written the letters.
September 24, 2002: Punjab and Haryana High Court converted the complaint into a criminal petition as the Judge in Sirsa MS Sular had recommended that the matter be investigated through a central agency and passed an order directing CBI to investigate the allegations.
December 2002: CBI Chandigarh registered a case on December 12, 2002 and began a formal probe.
September 6, 2008: Special CBI court frames charges against Ram Rahim under Sections 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.
April 5, 2011: Special CBI court shifts from Ambala to Panchkula. The case is transferred to the Panchkula CBI court.
August 17, 2017: Special CBI Judge Jagdeep Singh reserves verdict for August 25.
August 23, 2017: Security beefed up after nearly 50,000 followers gathered in Panchkula, Haryana, ahead of the CBI verdict anticipated on August 25.
August 24, 2017: Ram Rahim tweets that he would be present in the court despite back pain. To prevent tension, the governments of Punjab and Haryana declare holiday and suspended internet services.
August 28, 2017: Ram Rahim is sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment by CBI Special Court Judge Jagdeep Singh at a specially set up court inside the library of the District Jail in Sunaria near Rohtak in Haryana. The Judge also snubbed the prosecution agency for providing VIP treatment to the accused and specifically asked about permitting the accused for carrying a special luggage along with him.
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.