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Murder hearing against Ram Rahim to continue on Monday: 10 facts to know

Cases relate to murders of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati and former Dera manager Ranjit Singh

BS Web Team | Agencies  |  New Delhi | Panchkula 

Gurmeet Ram Rahim
Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is serving 20 years in jail for raping two female disciples. Illustrations: Ajay Mohanty

Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's troubles are far from over. Convicted and serving his sentence in prison for rape, the Dera chief on Saturday appeared via video conferencing before a special court that is hearing two separate murder cases against him. The arguments in the Ranjit Singh murder case will continue on Monday, the Dera chief's lawyer told the media.

Ram Rahim's former driver and a witness in the murder cases, Khatta Singh, who had retracted his statement in 2012, on Saturday moved an application in the special court in Panchkula to record a fresh statement. Singh alleged that he had earlier received threats to his life and to the life of his son.

According to news agency IANS, the sect chief's counsel, S K Garg, told media that the hearing in the Ranjit Singh murder case would be held on Monday (September 18), while the hearing for the Chhatrapati murder case would be held on September 22. Garg said that completing the final arguments would take some time.

The cases, related to the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati and former Dera manager Ranjit Singh, allegedly carried out by functionaries and followers of the sect, are being heard in the court of special judge Jagdeep Singh. 

The same court had, on August 25, convicted Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on two counts of rape of female disciples.

Here are the details about the cases and Ram Rahim that you need to know:

1) After retracting his statement in 2012, Khatta Singh, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's former driver and a witness in the murder cases filed against him, has moved an application in the special court to record a fresh statement. "I was scared that they would kill me and my son, we were threatened," Khatta Singh told reporters on Saturday. According to Singh's lawyer, in 2012, Singh had changed his statement, given in 2007, out of fear. According to ANI, the court on September 22 will decide if his statement will be taken.

2) Chhatrapati and Ranjit Singh were murdered in 2002. The sect chief is an accused in both murder cases as these were carried out allegedly at his behest.

3) Chhatrapati, a journalist who wrote extensively about the activities of the Dera, was shot from point-blank range right outside his house on October 24, 2002, according to an IndiaToday report that details the struggle of the journalist's son to get justice for his father. (Read more here)

4) According to the report, Chhatrapati was killed months after he published the anonymous letter written by an anonymous Sadhvi addressed to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accusing the Dera chief of rape. It was this letter that set off the chain of events leading to the Dera Chief's imprisonment. (Read more here)

5) The other case is regarding the murder of Dera follower Ranjit Singh. According to the Indian Express, Singh's family has alleged that he was killed because he was suspected of being involved in the aforementioned anonymous letter. Singh was murdered on July 10, 2002. (Read more here)

6) Police officials said that rapist Ram Rahim would not be physically produced in the special court on Saturday. Instead, the hearing took place through video conferencing as Ram Rahim is lodged in the District Jail in Sunaria near Rohtak. However, the seven other accused in the murder cases were present in court.

7) Ram Rahim was sentenced on August 28 to 20 years in jail for the rape and criminal intimidation of two female disciples.

8) The Dera chief's conviction in the two rape cases also places the odds against him. Citing sources from the CBI, an Economic Times report explained that the guilty verdict in those cases would be used by the to argue Ram Rahim's antecedents. "Antecedents of an accused hold prime importance during a trial. If an accused is found to have doubtful antecedents the case against him is strengthened...," a top official told the financial daily. (Read more here)

9) His conviction led to violence in Panchkula and Sirsa in Haryana, leaving 38 people dead and 264 injured. Isolated incidents of violence were also reported from Delhi and several other places in Punjab. There were no reports of Dera followers assembling in Panchkula ahead of Saturday's hearing, unlike the rape case hearing where over 100,000 followers had converged in the town.

10) Security was tightened in Panchkula town in ahead of the crucial hearing in two separate murder cases against the Dera chief and others on Saturday. Director General of Police B S Sandhu said on Friday that adequate paramilitary and Police personnel had been stationed around the court complex in Panchkula's Sector 1 and in other areas in Panchkula town to maintain law and order.

First Published: Sat, September 16 2017. 10:49 IST