Panchkula, Sep 16 (PTI) Final arguments in two murder cases allegedly involving Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh began in a special CBI court today.

The disgraced cult leader, lodged in Rohtak’s Sunaria jail after being found guilty of raping two disciples, appeared via video-conferencing before the special CBI court judge Jagdeep Singh.

Meanwhile, the Dera chief’s former driver Khatta Singh moved an application in the court seeking to record a fresh statement.

Khatta Singh’s counsel Navkiran Singh claimed that his client had retracted in 2012 from a statement he had given in 2007 under pressure. The court will now hear Khatta Singh’s application on September 22.

The special CBI court is hearing the cases of murder of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati and former Dera manager Ranjit Singh. Ram Rahim Singh is named as a conspirator in both the cases.

According to CBI counsel HPS Verma, during the proceedings today, the prosecution “read out evidences”. He said the court had decided to take up both the cases separately.

“The court will hear the final arguments in Dera manager Ranjit Singh’s murder case on a day-to-day basis from September 18, while the Chhatrapati murder case will be taken up on September 22,” Verma said.

Chhatrapati was shot at in October 2002, a few days after a newspaper owned by him, ‘Poora Sach’, published an anonymous letter narrating how women were being sexually exploited by the sect head at the Dera headquarters.

Ranjit was shot dead in July 2002. According to the prosecution, he was murdered for his suspected role in circulating an anonymous letter which made allegations of sexual exploitation against the Dera chief.

Defence counsel S K Garg Narwana told reporters outside the court that “Ram Rahim Singh appeared through video- conferencing from Sunaria jail.”

The judge had granted permission for video-conferencing yesterday after Panchkula DCP Manbir Singh moved an application, contending that the police cannot bring the Dera chief in person in view of the possible law and order fallout.

Contingents of paramilitary and the Haryana Police were deployed in Panchkula as security arrangements were tightened ahead of the hearing.

On August 25, after the special CBI court convicted Ram Rahim of rape, violence had erupted in Panchkula and Sirsa in which 41 people died.

Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to 20 years in prison on August 28.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.