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Indian "spiritual leader" jailed for 20 years in rape cases

Published : 28 Aug 2017, 20:05

  DF-Xinhua Report

India's premier investigating agency - Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Monday said court in northern state of Haryana pronounced a jail term of 20 years for rape convict self-styled Indian godman and spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

"The court in two 15 year old cases has ordered 20-year jail term (10 years in each case) for Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for raping two of his women followers over a period of time," an official said.

The CBI spokesman confirmed to media that the sentences would run consecutively.

Earlier there was a confusion that he would serve his sentences concurrently (simultaneously).

"When sentences run concurrently, convicts serve all the sentences at the same time. However, when sentences run consecutively, convicts have to finish serving the sentence for one offence before they start serving the sentence for another offence," Amit Gupta, a Delhi based advocate said.

Keeping in view the violence last week following Singh's conviction, authorities Monday flew the judge in a government helicopter to conduct proceedings at a makeshift court in a prison in state's Rohtak district.

The 50-year-old chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda, a religious sect which claims to run a "social welfare and spiritual organization" sat on the floor weeping, demanding leniency.

Ahead of the Monday's sentencing thousands of Indian force personnel including army and paramilitary enforced a lockdown in Rohtak and other parts of Haryana and Punjab in anticipation of violence.

Last week immediately after his conviction in 2002 cases for raping two women followers inside his headquarters, Singh's followers went on rampage and resorted to arson burning vehicles, train coaches, petrol stations etc. At least 38 people were killed and over 250 others injured in the violence.

However, authorities claimed that Monday's sentencing so far had not witnessed any kind of violence in any part of Haryana.

Authorities in two Indian states of Haryana and Punjab, besides national capital -- New Delhi have sounded an alert to prevent recurrence of violence. Reports said immediately after the judge pronounced his sentence, army staged a flag march in Sirsa.

"Our priority is to maintain law and order and containment of violence," a senior police official A S Dhillion told media during a press conference.

Officials said they have made arrests in connection with arson and would pursue criminal cases against people responsible for last week's rioting.

"Please be assured that no guilty responsible for violence will be spared," Dhillion said.

Singh the flamboyant and controversial chief claims to have 50 million followers and runs a spiritual empire.