NEW DELHI, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- India on Saturday put on trial disgraced spiritual guru Gumreet Ram Rahim Singh in two cases of murder, weeks after he was sentenced to 20 years in jail for raping two of his women followers.
A special court of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the northern town of Panchkula, which had last month convicted the self-styled godman for the two rapes, started hearing the final arguments in the two murder cases, including that of a journalist, this morning.
Singh, currently lodged at Sunaria jail in the northern state of Haryana's Rohtak district, is attending the hearing through video-conferencing as he has not been brought to the court amid fears of unrest by his followers, officials said.
The spiritual guru, who is the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, is accused of ordering the killing of Ram Chander Chhatrapati, editor of a local Haryana newspaper, in 2002 for publishing an explosive letter of sexual exploitation of women by him at the Dera headquarters in Sirsa.
The 50-year-old is also accused of murdering a former Dera manager, Ranjit Singh, the same year for his suspected role in the circulation of the anonymous letter by the victims of sexual exploitation by him at his Dera headquarters.
"The spiritual guru is being tried in these two murder cases by the same court that jailed him for 20 years in the two rape cases in August. The hearing in the two cases are likely to be completed within a month. He faces a maximum of death penalty in the cases," an official said.
Singh has denied his involvement in the two murder cases.
Police, meanwhile, said they have put in place adequate security arrangements in Haryana, given that several parts of the northern state as well as states of Punjab and Rajasthan had witnessed large-scale violence, following Singh's conviction in two rape cases on August 25.
While 41 people were killed in Haryana in the violence, no deaths were reported from Punjab and Rajasthan. More than 300 people were injured in clashes with the police.
"This time we have made adequate security arrangements ahead of the hearing in the cases. We are fully geared up to prevent any untoward incident in the state. All police forces have been put on high alert," Haryana Police chief B.S. Sandhu told the media.
The controversial leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which claims to have 60 million followers around the world, is also accused of forcing over 400 of his followers to undergo castration so they could "get closer to God".
"More cases under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code could be slapped on the guru for the alleged castration of his followers. A police probe is underway," another senior police official said.
Singh took over the sect, which describes itself as "a non-profit social welfare and spiritual organisation", at the age of 23. He has often been accused of mocking Sikh and Hindu religious figures.
Known as "rockstar baba" and "guru of bling" because of his shiny and colourful clothes, Singh has performed at several rock concerts, acted in films and even has his own line of food products, very popular among his followers.