Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been given life imprisonment by a court in Haryana's Panchkula for his role in the 2002 murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati. The cult leader had been convicted by a special CBI court on January 11 along with three accomplices.
Special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh pronounced the sentence over videoconferencing on the request of the Haryana government. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been incarcerated at the Sunaria Jail in Rohtak since August 2017. He is serving a 20-year sentence for raping two of his followers. The other three men sentenced on Thursday are lodged at Ambala jail.
The special court handed the life imprisonment sentence to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dera manager Krishan Lal and Dera carpenters Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh for the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Chhatrapati, who was the editor of a newspaper called Poora Sach. The court lso ordered them to pay fines of Rs 50,000 each.
Security has been ramped up in the Panchkula and Rohtak districts of Haryana to contain any backlash from Dera followers. When Ram Rahim was convicted in August 2017, his followers had gone on a rampage.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC have been imposed in Panchkula and heavy security been provided to the court complex. Police have also put in place a two-tier security cover has been placed around the Sunaria Jail, with a two-kilometre radius declared a no-go zone.