New Delhi: Within a few minutes from now, arguments over rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's sentencing will be heard at a special CBI court in Rohtak jail, where the godman is currently lodged
CBI is expected to ask for maximum sentence for rape charges, which is life imprisonment. While the rape convict's lawyers are likely to bank on his public image to request the court to give a lenient verdict in the case. Between the two arguments, will lie the fate of the head of Dera Sacha Sauda sect.
While arguments in the run-up to Singh's conviction were on, CBI had argued that the godman had raped his victims not once but several times at different places. The aggravating factors in the sentencing will also be the trust reposed in the godman by his victims, which the godman violated several times.
An Economic Times report quoted an official as saying, "Add to it (the rape charge) the inter-se relationship between the offender and the victim. It was that of faith. Here, the guilty — Ram Rahim — not only abused the spiritual authority he enjoyed over his female followers, but he also made gross misuse of the faith the sadhvis had restored in him, whom they treated as their Guru”.
CBI can also pre-empt defence counsel's argument — of being being a social worker and public figure — and use it against Singh himself.
CBI can argue that since Singh is a public figure, who has tremendous social influence, there are all the more reasons to award him the strictest punishments to make an example out of his case. CBI may also argue that by doing so, the court would send a strong message to the society.
On the other hand the defence is likely to plead on the grounds of his social image, age, illnesses, family and sect responsibilities and of him not being convicted before.
The defence may begin by claiming that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has a huge following that he's used to the betterment and advantage of society. The defence counsel might recount any philanthropic work that he or his sect may have done in past and use it as a mitigating circumstance.
While Singh's defence cannot claim innocence, since he's already convicted of two rapes, they may point at the fact that he has not been convicted in any criminal case in the past, and claiming that this would be his first legal transgression. His defence counsels may also bring up any illnesses that Singh may be suffering and couple it with his age (50) and claim that a prolonged jail sentence would be quite detrimental to his health.
Other arguments that may be put forward in his defence could be that he needs to take care not just of his four children, but of millions of other people in his sect, who are in his charge. His lawyers may argue that a lot of people would suffer quite a lot if their spiritual father figure was packed and sent away.
It will finally be up to the court on the quantum of sentence it awards to Singh in each case. He has been convicted in two separate cases of rape. Under section 376 the minimum punishment for rape is seven years and the maximum is life imprisonment. It will be up to the judge to decide whether he wants Singh to serve the sentences consecutively or concurrently. This means Singh could effectively serve a sentence between seven years, 14 years, to life imprisonment.
Singh's lawyers are in case expected to appeal immediately against the CBI Court's verdict in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and seek a bail for him.