The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a chargesheet against functionaries of the Dera Sacha Sauda religious sect at a special court in this Haryana town in two cases of murder and the rape of a woman sect follower.
The CBI filed the chargesheet on Monday night at the residence of the special CBI court judge RN Bharti. Dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh's name also figured in it, CBI sources indicated.
The chargesheet was filed hours before the expiry of the July 31 deadline set by the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the CBI to complete investigations against the sect's top brass.
Ranjit Singh, a former Dera member, was allegedly murdered by sect followers in July 2002 as he had highlighted wrongdoings inside the Dera headquarters at Sirsa, 300 kms from Chandigarh, including sexual exploitation of women devotees by some people in the sect's management.
Five Dera followers were charged with Ranjit Singh's murder in June.
The names of Dera followers also cropped up in the killing of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chandra Chhatrapati, who had reported the wrongdoings inside the Dera campus. He was murdered in November 2001.
The CBI also submitted its chargesheet in the rape of a sadhvi (woman devotee) inside the Dera campus. She, along with other women who were sexually exploited by top Dera functionaries, had initially raised their voices against the Dera management but were forced out of the sect campus and threatened so that they remained silent.
A former driver of the Dera chief, Khatta Singh, spilled the beans in all these cases by recording his statement before a magistrate in Ambala earlier this year.
The judge in Ambala fixed the next hearing on Aug 31.
The latest development is likely to put Gurmit Ram Rahim, the sect management and the Congress-ruled Haryana government in an embarrassing position as the Dera chief has been avoiding legal procedures so far, including his questioning in these cases.
The Dera godman, who supported the Congress in the February assembly elections in neighbouring Punjab, enjoys Z-plus security cover from the Haryana police as he got embroiled in a controversy with the Sikh community after portraying himself like 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in May.
This led to violence in Punjab and Haryana with the Sikh community demanding his arrest and announcing complete boycott of the sect in Punjab.
The Dera chief went through the legal formality of being "arrested" and then "bailed out" at his headquarters in Sirsa on Monday evening. A Punjab police team had arrived from Bathinda to complete the legal formality.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had earlier granted interim bail to Gurmit Ram Rahim, saying that if the Punjab Police arrested him, he would be given bail immediately.
The police team confiscated his passport and made him officially join the investigation. There was tension among Dera followers after the police team arrived to "arrest" him.