The hearing of the two separate murder cases against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and others will be continued next week, court sources said. Hearing in the matter, which began in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court in Panchkula on Saturday amid tight security saw the sect chief taking part through video conferencing from the Rohtak District Jail, where he is lodged following his conviction in two rape cases on August 25. Seven other accused in the murder cases were present in the court. The sect chief’s counsel S.K. Garg told media that the hearing of the Ranjit Singh murder case will be held on Monday (September 18) and journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati murder case will be held on September 22. Garg said that the final arguments will take some time to complete.
Meanwhile, the sect chief’s former driver, Khatta Singh, moved an application before the CBI court saying that he wanted to record a fresh statement in the murder case. His application will be taken up next week. Khatta Singh had earlier given a statement in favour of the sect chief in the murder cases but now claimed that he did it under threat and pressure from the sect chief. Tight security arrangements, including para-military forces and Haryana Police personnel, were deployed in Panchkula town, especially around the court complex in Sector 1. Security arrangements were tightened around the prison complex near Rohtak and in Sirsa district, where the headquarters of the sect are located.
The cases, related to the murder of Sirsa-based journalist Chhatrapati and former Dera manager Ranjit Singh, allegedly by functionaries and followers of the sect, were listed for final arguments on Saturday in the court of special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh. It was the same judge who had, on August 25, convicted Ram Rahim on two counts of rape of his female disciples and sentenced him to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment on August 28. Final arguments in the Chhatrapati murder case were being held on Saturday. The journalist was shot at in October 2002. He died in November, after battling for life in a hospital for a few days.
Ranjit Singh, who was believed to be privy to a number of wrong things going on inside the sect headquarters, was shot dead in July 2003. The sect chief is an accused in both murder cases, along with other accused, as these were carried out allegedly at his behest. Ahead of the hearing, Haryana Director General of Police B.S. Sandhu had said on Friday that adequate paramilitary and Haryana Police personnel had been stationed in Panchkula in view of the murder case hearing.
However, this time, no Dera followers assembled in Panchkula ahead of Saturday’s hearing, unlike the rape case hearing where over one lakh followers had converged in the town and had indulged in large-scale violence after his conviction. Violence had also broken out in Sirsa with both the incidents, leaving 38 people dead and 264 injured. Isolated incidents of violence were also reported from Delhi and several other places in Punjab.