In a development that has sparked renewed discussions, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda, currently serving a 20-year prison term for the rape of two women disciples, has been granted parole for the ninth time in the past four years. This latest parole, extending over 50 days, adds to the controversial figure’s history of temporary releases.
Notably, in November 2023, Ram Rahim Singh was granted a 21-day parole, followed by a 30-day parole in July. Earlier in January 2023, he had received a 40-day parole. Throughout 2022, he was released on parole on three separate occasions.
The recent parole permits Ram Rahim Singh to conduct religious discourses online from his Barnawa ashram in Uttar Pradesh. With a substantial following in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, the Dera chief has obtained parole for various reasons, including visiting his ailing mother and celebrating his birthday. The cumulative parole duration over the past four years now stands at 234 days.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s legal troubles originated from a 2017 conviction for the rape of two women disciples, resulting in a 20-year prison sentence. In 2019, he faced another conviction for the murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati. Additional legal challenges unfolded in 2021 when he, along with four others, was convicted of conspiring to murder Dera manager Ranjit Singh.
The frequent parole grants have not escaped controversy. Harjinder Singh Dhami, the president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, strongly opposed the Haryana government’s decision to grant a 21-day furlough to the Dera chief. Dhami expressed concerns over the serious nature of Ram Rahim Singh’s convictions, such as rape and murder, emphasising the erosion of trust within the Sikh community due to these decisions.
It is noteworthy that, according to the Haryana Good Conduct Prisoners (Temporary Release) Act, 2022, convicted prisoners can be granted regular parole. However, individuals convicted of multiple murders or under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act are ineligible for parole.
The recent 50-day parole granted to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh adds another layer to a series of temporary releases over the past four years, raising questions about the system and judiciary. The varied reasons for parole, including family visits, birthday celebrations, and religious activities, continue to fuel the ongoing debate surrounding the controversial Dera chief’s temporary release.