A judge who sentenced a controversial Indian guru convicted of rape to 20 years in prison called him a “wild beast” who deserved no leniency.
Judge Jagdeep Singh said in his order that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s assault of his disciples was “custodial rape” and he “deserved maximum punishment”.
The self-styled holy man was found guilty of sexually assaulting two female followers from 1999 to 2002.
Prosecutors had called for a life sentence.
A lawyer for the victims said “40-50 women” had come forward with allegations of rape and they would be seeking further investigation in the case.
Apart from the rape charges against him, Ram Rahim Singh denies charges of murder in two cases due to be heard next month.
- Lurid tales of India’s rapist guru
- The flamboyant ‘godman’ convicted of rape
- How a divided India fuelled the rise of the gurus
Ram Rahim Singh’s followers turned violent and 38 people were killed after his conviction on Friday. To deliver his judgement on Monday, the judge was flown to the prison where the self-styled holy man was lodged.
In a strongly-worded order, Judge Singh said the convict deserved the “maximum punishment” because he had “projected himself as a Godman and taken undue advantage of his position and authority”, the BBC’s Geeta Pandey reports from Delhi.
“The victims put the convict on the pedestal of ‘god’ and revered him. However, the convict committed breach of the gravest nature by sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers,” the order read.
Who is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh?
- Controversial leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, which claims to have 60 million followers around the world
- Took over the sect – which describes itself as “a non-profit social welfare and spiritual organisation” – when he was 23
- Performs at rock concerts, acts in films and even has his own line of food products
- Known as “rockstar baba” and “guru of bling” because of his shiny, colourful clothes
- Has been accused of mocking Sikh and Hindu figures
- Has been investigated for murder and rape, charges he denies
- Has been accused of forcing followers to undergo castration to “get closer to god”
As Ram Rahim Singh was “a very influential figure”, the judge said “he must be sentenced appropriately to send a deterring message for potential offenders”.
“Awarding lesser than maximum punishment would shock the collective conscience of the nation,” he added.
Ram Rahim Singh’s lawyers had argued in the court that he should be let off with a milder sentence because he was “suffering from hypertension, acute diabetes and severe backache” and that he was “a law abiding citizen” who was “engaged in social works of varied nature” and ran hospitals and other welfare works for the benefit of the people.
The judge, in the end, rejected his appeal, saying “when the convict did not even spare his own pious disciples and acted like a wild beast, he did not deserve any mercy”.