Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, self-styled spiritual guru to millions, broke down in court today and pleaded for mercy as he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for raping two women. But the CBI is pushing for life imprisonment citing precedents - and the two women he has been found guilty of raping in 2002 at his ashram say he deserves that. The CBI today said it has asked for enhanced or tougher penalty for the 50-year-old also known as "the guru of bling" on account of his flashy outfits and super-bikes.
- Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh sentenced to 20 years for rape
- He is spiritual guru for lakhs, broke down in court, sought mercy
- CBI filed for tougher punishment based on Supreme Court ruling
CBI sources said while asking the court to reconsider Ram Rahim's sentence, they have quoted a Supreme Court verdict in the case of a woman who was raped by the head of a cult in Chennai. The top court said the crime was especially heinous because "the protector became the beast", a comment the premier investigating agency is using in Ram Rahim's case.
The two women who Ram Rahim raped were sadhvis or women followers of him. M Narayanan, a senior CBI official who handled the investigation but is now retired, said "The punishment is not sufficient.''
The women were raped in 2002 when an anonymous letter was sent to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee accusing the guru of repeatedly raping the sender and several other women at the headquarters of his sect in Haryana.
A judge asked the CBI to look into the accusations, but it took years to trace the victims and it was not until 2007 that two women came forward and filed their complaint. It was at that time that Mr Narayanan, was assigned to supervise the probe in 2007; he completed it in just 57 days. A pair of investigating officers who had handled it till then were removed, causing a controversy because the move coincided with elections in Punjab, leading to talk of Ram Rahim's political reach.
For the CBI, this is an important win - from tracking down the sadhvis to ensuring they testify and then presenting a case that led to a conviction. The agency hopes that other women who were allegedly raped by Ram Rahim will come forward.
There were no reports of violence after Ram Rahim was sentenced. Tens of thousands of police enforced a lockdown in large parts of Haryana and Punjab where he has a mass following.
Police in Haryana issued orders to shoot protesters on sight ahead of the sentencing and ordered the hearing to be carried out inside the prison where he is being held in Rohtak.
On Friday, his followers unleashed riots after he was convicted, setting cars and train stations on fire. At least 38 people were killed and more than 200 injured.
Vipassana Insan, a spokeswoman for his sect, the Dera Sacha Sauda, urged followers today to respect the court's order.