A special CBI court in Panchkula on Thursday sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to life imprisonment for the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati. The other three accused - Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh, and Krishan Lal - have also been awarded life imprisonment. The court has also imposed a fine Rs 50,000 each.
Anshul Chhatrapati, son of journalist Ramchandra, has expressed satisfaction over the court's judgement. “This is the triumph of truth, I feel relieved today. Prosecution had demanded capital punishment but we're satisfied with the punishment,” Anshul said.
Journalist Ramchandra Chhatarpati's son on court pronouncing quantum of sentence to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh: This is the triumph of truth, I feel relieved today. Prosecution had demanded capital punishment but we're satisfied with the punishment. pic.twitter.com/Uc8rDFZsyU— ANI (@ANI) January 17, 2019
On January 11, the Special CBI Court Judge Jagdeep Singh had found Ram Rahim and his three aides guilty of the 'Poora Sach' journalist’s murder in 2002. They all were convicted under Section 302 (murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
Journalist Ramchandra Chhatarpati murder case: CBI Special Court in Panchkula awards life imprisonment to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. pic.twitter.com/O7WG4lBIPR— ANI (@ANI) January 17, 2019
The court had set January 17 as the next date of hearing to announce the quantum of the sentence in the case. Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is currently serving currently serving a 20-year prison term in Rohtak's Sunaria jail for raping two of his women followers, appeared in the court via video conferencing due to security concerns. However, the lawyers of the self-proclaimed godman and his accomplices were present in the court during the announcement of judgment.
Chhatrapati was shot at in October 2002 after his newspaper, 'Poora Sach', published an anonymous letter narrating how women were being sexually exploited by Gurmeet Ram Rahim at the Dera headquarters in Sirsa. The journalist later succumbed to injuries and a case was registered in 2003. The case was handed over to the CBI in 2006. Chhatrapati's family had approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2003, seeking transfer of the case to the CBI. The investigation was later handed over to the CBI which filed a charge sheet in July 2007.
The verdict was pronounced amid massive security arrangments in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana and Punjab to avoid the repeat of the 2017 violence that broke out following the judgment in the rape cases. In August 2017, the false face of the 51-year-old Dera head was exposed after he was found guilty of raping two of his women followers. Following the verdict, massive violence broke out in Panchkula and other parts of the state.
His supporters wreaked havoc and rampaged through the town Panchkula and other parts of Haryana, as well as neighbouring states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Over 50 people were killed in the violence allegedly planned by his adopted daughter Honeypreet to flee him from the police custody.