Days after self-styled godman Rampal and a few followers were convicted of murder in two separate cases, a Haryana court sentenced him and 13 others to life imprisonment in a second case of homicide on Wednesday. The Hisar Additional District and Sessions Judge found the 67-year-old and his followers guilty of murder, wrongful confinement of people and criminal conspiracy.
The case was registered after a woman was found dead at Rampal's Hisar ashram on November 19, 2014. He was arrested the same day on murder and related charges.
Besides sentencing Rampal and his aides to life imprisonment, Additional Sessions Judge DR Chalia also slapped a fine of Rs 2.05 lakh on each of the convicts on Wednesday. All the sentences will run concurrently.
On October 11, Rampal and 14 followers were convicted in two separate cases of murder and other offences committed at his ashram in Hisar. Yesterday, the court pronounced the quantum of punishment in the first case involving the death of four women and a child at Hisar ashram on November 18, 2014. Advocate AP Singh, who represented Rampal and his followers, said they will challenge the verdict before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The verdict was pronounced at a makeshift court inside the Hisar Central Jail, where Rampal and his followers have been lodged since their arrest in November 2014, after a trial that extended over four years. The two cases against Rampal and his followers were filed at Barwala police station on November 19, 2014.
Rampal's arrest the same month had occurred amid high drama, with over 15,000 of his devotees surrounding his sprawling 12-acre ashram in an attempt to thwart the police. Six people - five women and an infant - were killed in the ensuing violence.
Ahead of the pronouncement of the sentence, the Hisar district administration made elaborate security arrangements. Section 144 of the CrPC, prohibiting groups of over four people from gathering in the area, was imposed by the District Magistrate until October 17.
Rampal used to be a junior engineer with the Haryana government until he quit in May 1995 to become a spiritual leader. He later set up ashrams in Hisar and Rohtak districts, steadily gaining popularity with the public.
(With inputs from PTI)