CHANDIGARH, March 4 (PTI): The Punjab government has told the high court that granting frequent parole to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is serving a 20-year jail term for raping two disciples, may lead to law and order problems in the state.
The Punjab government’s response to a Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) petition against giving parole to the dera chief is in contrast to the Haryana government’s reply to the petition.
Supporting parole for Ram Rahim Singh, the Haryana government had said in the Punjab and Haryana High Court that he does not fall under the definition of a hardcore prisoner and cannot be termed a serial killer. He has also been convicted in two murder cases.
The dera chief was granted 40-day parole on January 20.
The SGPC, an apex gurdwara body, had recently challenged the parole order in Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The Punjab government has cited the “mayhem” created by supporters of the dera chief in Haryana’s Panchkula when he was convicted in the rape case in 2017 as a reason for its stand.
It also told the court that some sections of society may compare the frequent temporary parole to the dera chief to the cases of some people who have been in jail for a long time. Several Sikh bodies, including the SGPC, have been demanding the release of ‘Bandi Singhs’ (Sikh prisoners), which they claim are lodged in jails despite having completed their sentences.
“In the present case, respondent number-9 (the dera chief) has been granted parole a number of times in the last year. That information has been obtained from concerned quarters as per which the temporary release of respondent number 9 from custody is likely to create disturbance in the law and order situation in the state of Punjab,” Punjab ADGP (Law and Order) Arpit Shukla said in an affidavit filed in the court.
According to the Punjab government, granting frequent parole to Ram Rahim Singh has led to resentment in a particular religious community and has created a “festive and celebratory atmosphere” among the dera followers, which is highly resented by some sections of the society.
“That there is an apprehension of disturbance to law and order situation in the state of Punjab as persons opposed to the respondent no 9 may hold protests in the state of Punjab which may extend to activities like burning effigies/traffic jams/dharnas to express displeasure against the temporary release of respondent no -9,” the Punjab government told the court.
In 2021, the dera chief, along with four others, was also convicted for hatching a conspiracy to kill Ranjit Singh, a dera manager. The dera chief and three others were convicted in 2019 for the murder of a journalist more than 16 years ago.