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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Ram Rahim’s ex-driver turns up with offer of damning testimony in murder cases

Trial in murders of journalist who expose Dera Sacha Sauda leader’s rapes, cult follower who wanted to blow the whistle enter final stages

india Updated: Sep 17, 2017 08:03 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Panchkula
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh appeared for Saturday’s hearing via video conference from his prison in Rohtak.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh appeared for Saturday’s hearing via video conference from his prison in Rohtak. (AP file)

A former driver of cult leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh wants to testify against him in a murder case, telling judges who are hearing the case that he had earlier been coerced to change his testimony to help the Dera Sacha Sauda chief.

Singh was jailed last month for raping two women at the sprawling campus of the cult in Sirsa, a conviction that triggered widespread violence from his followers. His following had earned him considerable wealth and political power, which many saw as factors that helped him evade the law.

In addition to the rapes, Singh is accused of murdering two men — a journalist and a cult follower. The journalist who was killed is credited with exposing the rapes.The CBI has said that both were killed because they wanted to expose crimes being committed at the cult’s headquarters, which is spread over 700 acres.

The application of Singh’s former driver coincided on Saturday with the start of the closing arguments in the trials. He has been named as the main conspirator in the deaths of Sirsa-based journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati and dera member Ranjit Singh. Both murders were reported in 2002.

Singh is in a prison in Rohtak and appeared by video conference for the proceedings at a court in Panchkula.

“He behaved normally and did not complain of anything. He rarely looked up,” sources who were part of the hearing said.

“Today, CBI argued on statements of 31 witnesses out of total 60 in Ranjit murder case. The arguments will continue on Monday as well. As of the Ram Chander Chhatrapati case, final arguments will commence on September 22,” Singh’s lawyer SK Garg Narwana said. Lawyers said the cases may be heard on a daily basis now.

The cases are in the final stages and the court asked the defence and prosecution lawyers for their reaction on the former driver’s application, which is to be taken on September 22.

The driver, Khatta Singh, had initially testified against Singh in 2007 but changed his version in 2012. He now says he was under pressure from “baba and his goons”.

Khatta Singh claimed he was living in the dera when the crimes were committed and had “personal knowledge” about the circumstances of the murders.

The murder trials were handed over to CBI in 2003 after the victims’ relatives moved the Punjab and Haryana high court questioning the state police investigation. The trial began in 2008, nearly a year after CBI filed chargesheets.

Honeypreet’s driver arrested

The Haryana Police arrested on Friday the driver of Honeypreet Kaur, the controversial adopted daughter of Singh. Pradeep Kumar was detained from near the religious town of Salasar in Rajasthan. Sources said the arrest could help the police in determining the location Honeypreet, who has been absconding since August 25. She has been accused of plotting to free the cult leader.

First Published: Sep 16, 2017 18:43 IST

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