Chief judicial magistrate AK Jain, on Friday, held religious leader Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara and seven others guilty in two cases of burning of 'birs' (copies of Guru Granth Sahib). The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence on May 13.
Bhaniara and 14 others were booked in 2001 for allegedly burning a few pages of Guru Granth Sahib at a gurdwara in Morinda, Punjab.
The others who have been held guilty include Harjit Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Surmukh Singh, Surjit Singh, Bhupinder Singh, Ashok Kumar and Rajinder Singh.
Of the remaining accused, five, including Balwinder, Pritam, Sandhu, Karnail and Satnam, have been acquitted, while two others died during the trial.
They were booked under sections 295A (hurting religious sentiments), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 188 (disobedience of orders of public servant) and 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) of the IPC.
In 2001, there were a series of incidents of 'bir' burning in Punjab, after which six cases were registered against Bhaniara at various police stations.
Fearing for his life, Bhaniara had approached the Punjab and Haryana high court for transfer of these cases outside Punjab. The HC had then ordered the transfer of trial in all the cases to the Ambala courts.
Of the six cases, Bhaniara was acquitted in three in 2003, 2009 and on March 4 this year. One case against him is yet to be decided.
There were widespread protests by Akalis over the acts and teachings of Baba Bhaniara and his granth "Bhav Sagar", which had come under severe criticism.
The Akalis had alleged that Bhaniara's activities were aimed at desecrating the religious beliefs of Sikhs and that he was indulging in creating disaffection among different religious groups.
On September 24, 2003, Bhaniara had survived a murder attempt in the courts complex at Ambala when he had come for a hearing. A youth had attacked him with a sharp-edged weapon. While the security forces had overpowered the assailant, Bhaniara, who was bleeding profusely, was admitted to the PGI, Chandigarh.
A large number of followers of Bhaniara used to assemble in the courts complex during the hearings, compelling the administration to step up security.