Hearing begins in murder cases against Ram Rahim

Chandigarh: The hearing in two separate murder cases against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and others began here on Saturday in a special CBI court amid tight security. While seven accused in the murder cases were present in the court in Panchkula, adjoining Chandigarh, the jailed sect cheif took part in the hearing through video conferencing from the District Jail in Sunaria near Rohtak.

Singh has been lodged in the Rohtak jail following his conviction in August in two rape cases. Tight security arrangements, including para-military forces and Haryana Police personnel, were seen 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 Ram Chander 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.

Final arguments in the murder case of journalist Chhatrapati are being held on Saturday. The same court had, on August 25, convicted Ram Rahim on two counts of rape of his female disciples. He was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment by the CBI court on August 28. 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.

Chhatrapati was shot at in October 2002. He died in November, after battling for life in a hospital for a few days. Former Dera manager 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. Ram Rahim's conviction in August in the rape cases led to violence in Panchkula and Sirsa in Haryana, leaving 38 people dead and 264 injured. Isolated incidents of violence were also reported from Delhi and several other places in Punjab.

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