Punjab & Haryana HC acquits Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2002 murder case

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

Chandigarh | The Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday acquitted sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and four others in 2002 murder of sect's former manager Ranjit Singh, citing "tainted and sketchy" investigations in the matter.

The high court also held that media trials must not make objective evaluations of evidence on record.

The Sirsa-headquartered sect chief, who is also serving a 20-year jail term for raping two of his disciples, is currently lodged in Sunaria jail in Rohtak, Haryana.

"The high court has acquitted him and four others in the Ranjit Singh murder case," the Dera chief's lawyer Jitender Khurana had said earlier in the day.

He said the arguments in the case were over earlier and the matter came up for pronouncement of verdict before the high court on Tuesday.

Khurana said a division bench of Justice Sureshwar Thakur and Justice Lalit Batra pronounced the decision on the appeals filed by Ram Rahim and four others who had been convicted by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana, in October 2021.

The court had sentenced the five to life imprisonment in the nearly 20-year-old murder case of Ranjit Singh. Ram Rahim had been held guilty of hatching a criminal conspiracy with his co-accused.

"Media trials are not at all required to be the guiding regimen for the making of objective evaluations of evidence on record, as the making of objective evaluations vis-a-vis the evidence as exist on record, is required to be rested on applying to the evidence on record, thus the strictest principles of evidentiary logic," said the court order.

"How the intellectual strength of the investigating officer appears to become staticised by the glare of media publicity, where under came the crime event. Resultantly, for reasons, the investigating officer(s) carried out a tainted and sketchy investigation into the crime event, besides also they collected evidence which is unworthy of credence becoming meted thereto," it said.

Meanwhile, Ranjit Singh's brother-in-law Prabhu Dayal in Kurukshetra said he will move the Supreme Court to challenge the order.

Ranjit Singh, a follower of the sect, was shot dead on July 10, 2002, at Khanpur Kolian village in Haryana's Kurukshetra.

He was allegedly murdered for his suspected role in the circulation of an anonymous letter, which narrated how women were being sexually exploited by the sect head, Ram Rahim, at the Dera headquarters.

According to the CBI charge sheet earlier, the Dera chief believed that Ranjit Singh was behind the circulation of the anonymous letter and hatched a conspiracy to kill him.

In 2017, Ram Rahim was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for raping two disciples.

The Dera chief and three others were also convicted in 2019 for the murder of a journalist more than 16 years ago.

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