Chandigarh/Gurugram: Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who is serving a prison sentence in a Haryana jail, was granted a three-week furlough on Monday, a reprieve that Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said had nothing to do with elections.
The 21-day furlough comes just days ahead of the assembly polls in neighbouring Punjab, where the sect has a large number of followers, particularly in Bathinda, Sangrur, Patiala, and Muktsar.
Questioned by reporters, the Haryana CM denied any link between the sect leader’s release from Sunaria jail in Rohtak district and the Punjab elections on February 20.
“I think it is a coincidence and has no connection with the polls,” he said.
The sect chief is serving a 20-year jail term for raping two women disciples at his ashram in Sirsa, where the ‘dera’ is headquartered. He was convicted by a special CBI court in Panchkula in August 2017.
Sources said he has been granted furlough for meeting his family in Gurugram. He had applied for it to the Sunaria jail superintendent and later a recommendation from the concerned officials in Gurugram was also sought.
The Dera chief was brought out of the prison under heavy security. In the evening, he had reached the Gurugram ashram where his family was waiting for him.
A police contingent was also deployed around the ashram earlier.
CM Khattar said a prisoner who has completed three years of his term can apply for furlough. This is followed by a process that includes clearances from the administration and the involvement of police and jail authorities.
“There are court decisions that if prisoner wants furlough after three years, he can take it,” Khattar, who heads the BJP-JJP government in the state, said.
“It is his right and he has got it,” he said.
Last year, the dera chief had been granted an emergency parole from sunrise to sunset to meet his ailing mother. He has also come out of jail on a couple of occasions medical treatment.
However, this is for the first time that Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 54, will remain out of prison for such a long period.
Haryana’s Jail Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala told reporters that the furlough was granted by Rohtak Divisional Commissioner on the recommendation received from the concerned officials.
He also asserted that the furlough was not connected to the polls in some states, including Punjab, and said it was a legal right.
Some followers gathered outside the dera headquarters in Sirsa after hearing about the sect leader’s furlough. “I am immensely happy with the development,” a woman follower said.
This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.