Will tes­tify against dera chief: Driver

RAM RAHIM TRIAL Says he had ear­lier been co­erced to change his tes­ti­mony in a mur­der case to help the cult leader

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - FRONT PAGE - Vivek Gupta vivek.Gupta@hin­dus­tan­times.com

PANCHKULA: 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.

The cases are in the fi­nal stages and the court asked the de­fence and pros­e­cu­tion lawyers for their re­ac­tion on the former driver’s plea, 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.

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

Mean­while, 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.

PTI FILE

In ad­di­tion to the rapes, Gurmeet Ram Rahim is ac­cused of mur­der­ing two men — a jour­nal­ist and a cult fol­lower.

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