CHANDIGARH: Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and three others accused in the 2002 murder case of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati, have been convicted by special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh. Also accused are Dera manager Krishan Lal and two Dera carpenters, Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh, who executed the murder. They have been convicted too. The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence on January 17. Gurmeet appeared via video conferencing from the jail for the hearing. The other three accused were present in court.
CBI counsel HPS Verma said Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh were convicted under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of IPC read with Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC, while Dera chief and Krishan Lal were convicted under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) read with Section 302 (punishment for murder) of IPC. Nirmal Singh was also convicted under Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959. While, Krishan Lal was convicted under Section 29 of the Arms Act, 1959. According to the CBI chargesheet, Dera manager Krishan Lal had given his licenced revolver and a walkie talkie to Kuldeep and Nirmal in the presence of the Dera chief to eliminate Chhatarpati. They shot the journalist on October 24, 2002. He died three weeks later.
A key witness to the murder case was the Dera chief's former driver Khatta Singh. In May 2018, he had told the Panchkula CBI court that Gurmeet had ordered his men to eliminate Chhatarpati in his presence. The same judge had last year, convicted the self-claimed Godman to 20 years in prison for raping two female disciples. Worried about security arrangements of transporting him from Rohtak jail to Panchkula for the recent case, Haryana police had urged the court to allow Gurmeet to attend the hearing via video conferencing.
On August 25, 2017, Dera followers indulged in large-scale violence and arson after the Dera chief was convicted of rape charges. Haryana and Punjab police had made elaborate security arrangements across the two states to prevent any recurrence of violence and arson.