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Indian guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was branded a “wild beast” by a judge as dozens more women came forward to accuse him of sex offences.
The religious leader was found guilty of sexually assaulting two women from 1999 to 2002, with judge Jagdeep Singh declaring he deserved “maximum punishment” for the crimes and sentencing him to 20 years in prison.
Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction sparked violent protests from supporters across India, during which 38 people are believed to have been killed.
Judge Singh launched a scathing indictment of his crimes during his sentencing on Monday, saying he had “projected himself as a Godman and taken undue advantage of his position and authority”.
It comes as the lawyer for his victims said at least 48 more women had come forward with allegations of rape and that there would be further investigations.
Ram Rahim Singh also face charges of murder in two cases due to be heard next month and has denied involvement.
Judge Singh was flown to the prison where Ram Rhaim Singh is being held to deliver his sentencing.
As reported by the BBC, his order said: “The victims put the convict on the pedestal of ‘god’ and revered him. However, the convict committed breach of the gravest nature by sexually assaulting such gullible and blind followers.”
The judge added that because Ram Rahim Singh was “a very influential figure” his sentencing must send a “deterring message” for other potential offenders.
He added: “Awarding lesser than maximum punishment would shock the collective conscience of the nation.”
Ram Rhaim Singh’s lawyers had argued in court that he should receive a lighter sentence due to illness and his charity work, but Judge Rahim Sigh rejected the appeals.
He said: “When the convict did not even spare his own pious disciples and acted like a wild beast, he did not deserve any mercy.”
Riots broke out in some areas of India following Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction on Friday, with enraged followers setting fire to government buildings, vandalising bus stations and government vehicles.
Some 38 people are believed to have died.
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