A CBI court in Panchkula on Thursday awarded life imprisonment to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2002 journalist murder. Besides him, three others – Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal – were also awarded life sentence. The CBI court has also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each. They had been convicted earlier. All the four attended the sentencing through video conference as the court on Wednesday had accepted Haryana government’s plea seeking appearance of Dera chief Ram Rahim through video conference. The government had said the movement of Dera chief could lead to a law and order situation. 

On January 11, Special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh had convited Ram Rahim and three others in 2002 journalist murder case. All the four were convicted under section 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the India Penal Code. Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal were also convicted under Arms Act. Journalist Ramchandra Chhatrapati was shot dead outside his house in October 2012 in Sirsa after his newspaper Poora Sach published a letter alleging sexual exploitation of women by Ram Rahim.

Ram Rahim was the main conspirator in the case. The journalist family had demanded capital punishment for the guilty. Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements have been made across Haryana, particularly in Sirsa, where the Dera headquarters is located. Until 2017 when he was convicted on rape charges, the Dera chief had immense clout in Haryana, Punjab’s political circles. Dera followers were seen as a consolidated vote bank by politicians.

However, the number of Dera followers mainly belonged to backward classes have reduced since his conviction on rape charges.