High Court admits pleas of Dera Chief Ram Rahim, rape victims

CHANDIGARH:  The Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued a notice to the CBI while admitting separate pleas filed by the Dera Sacha Sauda chief challenging his 20-year sentence in rape case and that of the two victims seeking life imprisonment for Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

As the case came up for hearing today, a division bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Sudhir Mittal also directed Ram Rahim’s counsel to deposit Rs. 30 lakh as fine, which was imposed by the special CBI court on Ram Rahim, with a bank within two months.

“The revision petition filed by rape victims for enhancing the sentence to life imprisonment for Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been admitted,” victims’ counsel Navkiran Singh here today.

The counsel for Dera sect chief S K Garg Narwana also said, “the court has also admitted our appeal (challenging the conviction).”

Both the pleas will now be heard together. Mr Narwana said, “The high court has also directed us to deposit fine with a bank in the shape of FDR through the court within two months. If our appeal is finalised in our favour, then we will get back money with interest.”

The jailed Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court on September 25, challenging the order of the special CBI Court of Panchkula which had sentenced him to 20-year-imprisonment for raping two disciples.

The order was challenged on several grounds including delay of more than six years in recording the statements of the victims by the CBI. Two rape victims had also moved the High court on October 4, seeking life imprisonment for the Dera Sacha Sauda chief.

“In this case, the Dera sect chief was considered as ‘Pita Ji’ (father) by his followers. Victims were under emotional and physical custody of Dera chief and he broke their trust and misused his position as a religious and spiritual leader. Therefore, we sought life imprisonment
instead of 20-year-sentence,” counsel Navkiran Singh said.

Ram Rahim was convicted by the special CBI court on August 25, following which violence and arson had erupted in Panchkula and Sirsa districts which left 41 people dead and left scores injured.

Ram Rahim is currently lodged in Sunaria jail in Rohtak district.

In April 2002, an anonymous letter was written to the then Chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, complaining about alleged sexual exploitation of woman followers at Dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa.

Then in May 2002, the High Court directed Sirsa district and sessions judge to probe the allegations in the letter. In September 2002, the high court had handed over the matter to the CBI after the district court indicated possibility of sexual exploitation.