Dera chief, 3 others held guilty of murdering journalist

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PANCHKULA. Jan 11 (Agencies): A CBI court Friday convicted self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and three others for the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati 16 years ago.

The quantum of sentence for the Dera Sacha Sauda chief and the others will be pronounced by the special CBI court Judge Jagdeep Singh on January 17.

The 51-year-old sect head appeared before the court through video conference from Sunaria jail in Rohtak, where he is already serving a 20-year sentence for raping two of his followers.

The journalist was killed in Haryana’s Sirsa in 2002 after his newspaper published a letter alleging sexual exploitation of women by the godman.

After the conviction in the murder case, he now faces a minimum sentence of life, lawyers said.

The other three accused – Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal – appeared in person at the Panchkula court. After the verdict, they were taken to Ambala jail following a medical examination.

All the four accused have been convicted under section 302 (murder) and 120 B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, CBI counsel H P S Verma said.

Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal have also been convicted under the Arms Act, he said. Security was tight outside the Panchkula court complex with the Haryana police putting up barricades on roads leading to it. It was also stepped up in the rest of the state and parts of Punjab.

The situation remained peaceful. Chhatrapati was shot outside his house in October 2002 after his newspaper ‘Poora Sach’ published an anonymous letter narrating the alleged the sexual exploitation of women followers by Ram Rahim at the Dera headquarters in Sirsa.

Ram Rahim was named as the main conspirator in the case. Chhatrapati’s family approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2003, seeking the transfer of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The investigation was later handed over to the CBI which filed the chargesheet in July 2007. Verma said the CBI examined 46 witnesses and the defence 21.

There was violence in Panchkula and some other parts of Haryana and Punjab in August 2017 after Ram Rahim’s conviction in the rape case. The police opened fire and about 30 people, mostly Dera followers, were killed in Panchkula.

In 2017, the sect leader was brought to the Panchkula court where the CBI court judge pronounced the verdict.

The judge had later travelled to Sunaria jail, where Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was lodged, to pronounce the sentence.

The CBI counsel said Friday a convict has to appear in person before the judge when the quantum of sentence is pronounced.

But it is not immediately known whether Ram Rahim will be brought to the court in Panchkula or the judge will pronounce the sentence in jail this time.


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