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.
Strictly speaking, I personally just don’t approve of life term as I believe it to be the most cruel punishment. But let me add in the same vein that I also believe that as long as it exists in our legal system, it must be awarded to all such Babas who first fool victim that they will get salvation by giving them gurumantra only to be raped most brutally! No other punishment should be given to them! No 10 years or 20 years or 30 years! Nothing doing! Only and only life which means whole life in jail! Same should be the case with child rapists and gang rapists!
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that Special CBI Judge – Jagdeep Singh also slapped a fine of Rs 30 lakh on the preacher. Of this, Rs 28 lakh will be divided between the two survivors who stuck to their statements over the past 15 years despite unrelenting pressure from various quarters with threats to even eliminate them! The library of the jail complex was converted into a courtroom for the hearing. Let me now briefly state the entire sequence of events of the day when Ram Rahim was sentenced to jail. It is as follows: –
– 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
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that after sentence was pronounced on him, he was virtually in tears. The Dera chief kept repeating that he was innocent and had been framed in a false case. He also said that he did not want to go to jail. He refused to leave the makeshift courtroom and insisted that he did not want to go back to the jail barracks. He also complained to the judge that he wasn’t given tea when he asked for it. What he forgot was that he was there not as a preacher but as a prisoner who was sentenced to jail for committing rape of two sadhvis.
Be it noted, during arguments, the CBI counsel demanded harsh punishment for the dera head given the heinous nature of the crime and the fact that the sadhvis were in his shelter who trusted him fully only to be betrayed most grievously! Narwana who defended Ram Rahim spared no effort to seek a mild sentence considering Gurmeet’s contribution to society. After he was sentenced to 20 years jail term, he broke down and kept holding a chair and pleaded before the Judge to reduce the jail term.
Be it noted, given that Gurmeet Ram Rahim did not spend a single day in jail after being booked for rape in 2002, he will now have to spend at least half his sentence behind bars before he becomes eligible for bail. However, it must be clarified here that it is entirely the Judge’s discretion whether to give bail or not. I personally feel that there should be no bail for heinous crimes like rape which can never be justified under any circumstances and this “dangerous discretion bomb” must be permanently removed. There can be no mitigating circumstances for a heinous crime like rape!
Let me now jog back my readers memory a little back. It is imperative to do this so that the entire sequence of events in which this high profile case proceeded in the last more than 15 years can be understood properly. It runs as follows: –
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.
All said and done, this 20 years sentence is a very small step that has come too late. It should have been life term and this decision too should have come a lot earlier about 14 years back! Also, such Babas who sexually exploit their female followers must be given the harshest punishment as their criminal act by exploiting the blind faith of their followers cannot be justified under any mitigating circumstances! One sincerely hopes that High Court and Supreme Court will finally award the strictest sentence to him and not allow him to go scot free or escape with a lesser jail term! Only then will a loud and clear message will go out to all such characterless Babas that they cannot get away after committing heinous crimes like rape under any circumstances!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.