ALSO READDera verdict: Curfew-like restrictions in Chandigarh, Panchkula Dera verdict: Centre deploys 15,000 paramilitary troops in Punjab, Haryana Dera verdict: Mobile internet services suspended in Punjab, Haryana Dera verdict: Army on standby; curfew imposed in Sirsa Dera verdict: Ram Rahim promises to be present in court, appeals for peace
The Dera Sacha Sauda chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who was charged with the offence of rape of a female devotee in 1999, was on Friday held guilty by the Special CBI Court of Panchkula.
The quantum of sentence will, however, be announced on August 28.
The decision came as soon as the Special CBI Court began the hearing on the case on Friday.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF) and the state police were present inside the premises of the court, when Justice Jagdeep Singh read out the verdict.
The case was registered by the CBI in 2002 against the self-styled godman after allegations of sexual exploitation of two women followers through anonymous letters.
On August 17, the Special CBI court concluded hearing in the case, but reserved pronouncing the verdict for today. For the hearing, Singh was recused from appearing in person at Panchkula by the court. The Dera chief had cited medical reasons for not attending court in person.
Meanwhile, ahead of today's judgement by the court, thousands of the Dera chief's followers had taken to the streets in a bid to demand to justice for their guru.
Earlier today, the state police carried out Flag March in Sirsa, even as the Punjab and Haryana High Court asked the Haryana Government to use force if needed, and file a First Information Report (FIR) against the leaders as well, if they make provocative statements.
Amid the increasing agitation propelled by Dera followers, Section 144 has been imposed in Chandigarh and as many as 74 trains have been cancelled for today in view of law and order situation in Haryana.
This took the total number of cancelled trains to 201, including 92 Mail/Express and 109 Passenger trains.
However, mobile internet services remained active in Gurugram and Faridabad.
Also, the impact of the security arrangements has started showing in the adjoining areas of Rajasthan as the internet services have been suspended for 48 hours and Section 144 has been imposed in Sri Ganganagar.
The possibility of an outbreak of violence in Haryana also affected the cost of air travel. Reportedly, the fare from Delhi to Chandigarh has risen up to as much as Rs. 11,000.
In addition to it, the security had been tightened in Sirsa district as Dera followers gathered on Court Road.
Yesterday, Ram Rahim asked his supporters, who had been camping in Panchkula, to return to their homes and maintain peace.
The Dera Sacha Sauda chief released a video message asking his supporters, camping in Panchkula, to go back home. He also asked his supporters to respect the law and maintain peace.
"I appeal to everyone to maintain peace. I had earlier also asked the Dera followers, who have gone to Panchkula, to return to their home. I will go to court. We all should respect law and maintain peace," he said in the video message.
Earlier on Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had spoken to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and assured him of adequate forces for security.
Around 53 companies of the paramilitary forces and 50,000 personnel of the Haryana Police had also been deployed. In addition, the Army was also alerted.
The administration was asked to take a stringent action if anyone tries to break the law.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had also pulled up the Haryana Government over the security arrangements provided in the state.
The High Court said that it doesn't want a situation like that of the Jat agitation to take place again in Haryana and has, hence, asked the Centre to deploy additional forces, and take strong steps.
The court also said that it would direct the Army if the needful isn't done.
The Central Government had, on its part, assured that a necessary action would be taken to curb any agitation.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court also said that it had been keeping a watch over the recent happenings in the states and reporting to the Information and Broadcast Ministry, and that all the necessary steps would be taken to restrict any agitation.
In addition to this, Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) had suspended 150 bus routes to the neighbouring states from today midnight till tomorrow.
According to a statement by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh's office, a complete ban has been issued on carrying of firearms until the situation normalises.
The Chief Minister had also ordered the withdrawal of 1,000 police personnel from VVIP security for deployment on field duty to strengthen the security blanket in the state, said an official spokesperson.