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With two separate convictions of rape, ‘repeat offender’ Ram Rahim could face life term

In such a scenario, the judge, at the time of deciding the quantum of punishment, has the option of pronouncing Ram Rahim’s sentencing for two separate crimes consecutively or concurrently.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2017 23:47 IST
Rajesh Ahuja/Surender Sharma
Rajesh Ahuja/Surender Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Chandigarh
Ram Rahim,Dera head,Dera Sacha Sauda
Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has been convicted of raping two of his followers.(AP File photo)

Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh faces the prospects of harsher punishment on Monday as he has been separately convicted of raping two women, thus making him a ‘repeat offender’.

When Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special judge Jagdeep Singh decides on the quantum of punishment on August 28, the sentencing will be for two convictions.

Legal experts say in this scenario, the judge, at the time of deciding the quantum of punishment, has the option of pronouncing Ram Rahim’s sentencing for two separate crimes consecutively or concurrently.

“In case of two separate complainants and separate charges, where the accused has been held guilty of a crime as heinous as rape, the judge is well within his rights to rule that both the sentences will run consecutively and not concurrently,” said senior counsel and former secretary of Supreme Court Bar Association Ashok Arora.

Both the CBI and defence lawyers confirmed to Hindustan Times that separate charges of raping two women were framed against the Dera head at the beginning of trial.

“Ram Rahim has been held guilty separately of raping both the women and it was pronounced separately as well by the court,” said HPS Verma, the CBI counsel in the case.

Senior advocate SK Garg Narwana, who appeared for the Dera chief, also confirmed the separate conviction.

The CBI had filed a single FIR in the case. Legal experts added that ideally, the CBI should have filed two separate charge sheets in the case. However, Section 219 of Criminal Procedure Code provides that the trial against the same accused for up to three offences within the span of one year can be held jointly.

“But the charges should be framed separately, leading to conclusion of trial on separately charges. And if the accused is convicted on the both the charges, the judge can rule that sentences on both the charges will run consecutively,” said Manoj Chaudhary, former chief prosecutor of Delhi government.

The maximum punishment for rape is life imprisonment and when its duration is not specified, the accused can be released after 20 years behind bars.

But the judge can specify in the order that life imprisonment in a particular case will mean the convict spends his whole life in jail. Chaudhary added that since in this case, the accused has been convicted of two separate charges of rape, the CBI can ask the judge to put him behind bars for life. “Or the CBI can also demand that his sentences should run consecutively,” he clarified. A CBI spokesman refused to comment as to what kind of sentence the agency would seek for the Dera head.

The CBI had registered the FIR in the case following the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court after an anonymous letter was written to the chief justice and other dignitaries complaining about sexual exploitation of women followers of the Dera head. The FIR was registered on charges of rape and criminal intimidation. The CBI investigators had to make strenuous efforts to make the two complainants depose before the magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code to make their statements admissible as evidence before court.

Sources said not only CBI investigators but also lawyers of the agency conducting trial were under tremendous pressure to withdraw from the case.

First Published: Aug 26, 2017 23:45 IST