A special CBI court in Panchkula Thursday sentenced life imprisonment to the Dera Sacha Sauda sect head and the three others -- Nirmal Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Krishan Lal -- in the murder case of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati.
The life of an idealistic journalist was snuffed out as he dared to highlight the activities of a powerful Dera head, said the CBI court on Thursday while awarding life sentence to self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim and three others in the 2002 journalist murder case. However, the court said that this case does not fall in the category of rarest of rare cases for which death penalty is awarded.
A special CBI court in Panchkula Thursday sentenced life imprisonment to the Dera Sacha Sauda sect head and the three others — Nirmal Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Krishan Lal — in the murder case of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati.
The journalist was killed in Haryana’s Sirsa in 2002 after his newspaper published a letter alleging sexual exploitation of women by the godman. “Life of an innocent citizen and an upright, idealistic journalist was snuffed out simply because he dared to write about the activities of a powerful head of some Dera,” the judge, Jagdeep Singh, wrote in his order.
Noting that the mobocracy and violent attacks on innocent citizens have no place in a democracy which is governed by rule of law and sound Constitutional norms, the court said the pillars of democracy cannot be allowed to be crushed.
“In the murder case, the accused persons have been convicted for entering into a criminal conspiracy to eliminate Ram Chander Chhatarpati and for committing murder of deceased Ram Chander Chhatarpati, a journalist based in Sirsa, who used to publish daily eveninger named ‘Poora Sach’,” the judge wrote.
“Known as ‘fourth estate’ in a modern state, press is ideally the watchdog of the democracy. Because of its vast potential for influencing the public opinion, it is generally acknowledged that it has the power to make or mar the career of any individual or organization,” the order stated.
Journalism is a serious business, which ignites the desire to seek and report the truth and as such facilitates a better society and world, the judge wrote in his order. “There is little glamour to the job, no big reward and in the traditional mould it is predominantly a public service in the sincerest sense,” the order stated.
The judge also observed that the acts of convict (Gurmeet Ram Rahim) are abhorrent, and two distinct and grave crimes have been committed by the convict. Ram Rahim is undergoing a 20-year-sentence in Sunaria jail in Rohtak in a rape case.
During final arguments on the quantum of sentence in the murder case, the CBI sought capital punishment citing it to be a “planned and cold-blooded” murder. Whereas the defence counsel sought leniency, pleading social work done by Ram Rahim and claimed that cases against him were the handiwork of forces which opposed welfare activities done by the Dera Sacha Sauda.
On January 11, special CBI Court Judge Jagdeep Singh had convicted the four men for the murder of Chhatrapati. All the four were convicted under Section 302 (murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal were also convicted under the Arms Act.