Indian court sentences rape convict "spiritual leader" to 10 years in jail

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-28 22:01:29|Editor: Song Lifang
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NEW DELHI, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- A local court in northern state of Haryana Monday pronounced a jail term of 10 years for rape convict self-styled Indian godman and spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

"The court has ordered 10-year jail term for Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh," said a senior local official of Haryana.

According to officials Singh was taken for a medical examination before imprisonment.

Authorities in two Indian states of Haryana and Punjab, besides national capital New Delhi have sounded an alert to prevent recurrence of violence.

"So far the situation is peaceful," a senior government official Umma Shanker told media.

Singh was convicted last week in a case dating back to 2002 for raping two women followers inside his sprawling headquarters at Sirsa.

Immediately after his conviction, Singh's followers went on rampage burning vehicles, train coaches, petrol stations etc. At least 37 people were killed and over 250 others injured in the violence.

Ahead of Monday's pronouncement, Indian army, paramilitary and policemen remained deployed in Sirsa and other sensitive places.

The prison was transformed into a fortress and judge were flown to the makeshift court in a helicopter.

According to a local media report soon after judge sentenced him to 10 years in jail, Singh refused to leave the courtroom and wept.

"Mujhe maaf kar do (forgive me)," NDTV report said.

Reports said immediately after the judge pronounced his sentence, army staged a flag march in Sirsa.

A curfew has been imposed in several areas of Haryana and Punjab states as a precautionary measure.

The 50-year-old Singh heads a religious sect and claims to run a "social welfare and spiritual organization."

The controversial chief claims to have 50 million followers and runs a spiritual empire. Of late he has started featuring in films. In his movies "MSG: The Messenger of God" and "MSG2", Singh wears dazzling costumes, rides motorcycle, and is seen sending villains flying.

Prior to his conviction Singh was enjoying a political patronage and had cordial relations with the politicians.

Singh has a vast rural following in the states of Punjab and Haryana.

Authorities said the situation was under control and no incidents of violence were reported from anywhere in the states.

Officials said they have made arrests in connection with arson and would pursue criminal cases against people responsible for last week's rioting.

Indian media reported that Singh's followers had set two vehicles on fire just ahead of sentencing. However, police said the car burned at its own.

Meanwhile, Singh's lawyers, who pleaded for a lighter sentence citing his philanthropic work, said they would appeal in a higher court against sentence.

On Sunday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his radio address warned that violence was not acceptable in the nation.

However, his party which governs Haryana has come under heavy fire for failing to prevent deadly violence in the state against court's order. The opposition Congress party has demanded resignation from chief minister.