Chandigarh: Jailed Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Monday moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court, challenging a special CBI court’s verdict sentencing him to 20 years in prison for raping two disciples.
The CBI court in Panchkula on 28 August had sentenced Ram Rahim to 20 years in prison after his conviction. “We have filed an appeal today in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Through this, we have challenged the order of the CBI court," defence counsel Vishal Garg Narwana said here.
He said the CBI verdict has been challenged on several grounds. “One of the grounds was that there was a delay of more than six years in recording the statements of the women (victims) by the CBI after the incident," the defence counsel said.
The CBI had claimed that the two women followers were sexually exploited in 1999 and the agency recorded their statement in 2005, Garg said. He alleged that the CBI had also concealed some portion of the victims’ statement. Ram Rahim was convicted by the special CBI court on 25 August, following which violence and arson had erupted in Panchkula and Sirsa districts which left 41 people dead and scores of injured.
The judge pronounced two sentences of 10 years rigorous imprisonment in each of the two rapes that date back to 2002. The controversial sect head is currently lodged in Sunaria jail in Rohtak district of Panchkula. In April 2002, an anonymous letter was written to the then chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, complaining about the alleged sexual exploitation of woman followers at the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters in Sirsa.
In May 2002, the high court directed the Sirsa district and session judge to probe the allegations in the letter. In September 2002, the high court handed over the matter to the CBI after the district court indicated the possibility of sexual exploitation In December 2002, the CBI registered a case of rape, criminal intimidation against Ram Rahim.
The CBI filed a charge sheet against the Dera head in Ambala court in July 2007. The charge sheet mentioned the sexual exploitation of two ‘sadhvis’ between 1999 and 2001. In September 2008, the special CBI court framed charges of rape and criminal intimidation against Ram Rahim.