Godman Rampal,13 followers sentenced to life term

Godman Rampal,13 followers sentenced to life term

A Haryana court sentenced self-styled godman Rampal and his 13 followers to life imprisonment in a second case of murder on Wednesday. PTI Photo

A Haryana court sentenced self-styled godman Rampal and his 13 followers to life imprisonment in the second case of murder on Wednesday.

The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge in Hisar sentenced Rampal, 67, and his followers in the case registered at Barwala police station in the district on November 19, 2014. They had been charged with murder, wrongful confinement of people and criminal conspiracy.

A woman was found dead at Rampal's Ashram in Hisar district on November 19, 2014. Rampal was arrested the same day for murder and other charges were slapped on him.

On Tuesday, the court sentenced the engineer-turned self-styled godman and 14 of his followers to life imprisonment in connection with another case of murder.

On October 11, Rampal and some of his followers had been convicted in two separate cases of murder and other offences, including wrongful confinement of his victims at his Ashram in Hisar.

Additional Sessions Judge D R Chalia also slapped a fine of Rs 2.05 lakh on each of the convicts on Wednesday.

The court awarded life imprisonment and a fine of Rs one lakh each under Section 302 IPC, two years imprisonment under Section 343 IPC and fine of Rs 5,000 each, and life imprisonment under Section 120 B and fine of Rs one lakh each. All sentences will run concurrently.

The court yesterday pronounced the quantum of punishment in the first case involving the death of four women and a child at the Hisar ashram on November 18, 2014.

A P Singh, advocate who represented Rampal and others, said they will challenge the sessions court decision before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The verdict was pronounced, after nearly a four-year trial, in a makeshift court inside the central jail in Hisar, where Rampal and his followers have been lodged since their arrest in November 2014.

The two cases against Rampal and his followers were filed at Barwala police station on November 19, 2014.

Besides the murder charges, the Barwala police had also invoked the offence of wrongful confinement, among others, in the two FIRs.

In November 2014, as the police proceeded to arrest Rampal holed up inside his ashram, his followers and devotees, numbering more than 15,000, surrounded the sprawling 12-acre hermitage to prevent the godman's arrest.

Six persons including five women and an infant were killed in the ensuing violence.

Ahead of the pronouncement of the sentence, the Hisar district administration had made elaborate security arrangements. Section 144 of the CrPC, prohibiting the gathering of more than four persons, has been imposed by the district magistrate, effective till October 17.

Before becoming a self-styled godman, Rampal worked as a junior engineer in a Haryana government department for 15 years before quitting in May 1995.

He later set up an Ashram in Barwala area in Hisar district and another one in Rohtak district and gradually gained popularity as a spiritual leader.

He took to full-time preaching, touring the villages and the cities across Haryana.

In 2006, he ran into controversy and invited the ire of Arya Samaj followers in Rohtak region because of his alleged unwelcome comments on Swami Dayanand Maharishi.