Dera Sacha Sauda leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Photo: NDTV

The Punjab government has imposed Section 144 ahead of the verdict in a 14-year-old rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who will be appearing in court on Friday, according to media reports.

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 empowers an executive magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than four people in an area.

PTI reported that mobile internet services have been suspended for 72 hours in Haryana, Punjab, and Chandigarh, ahead of the court verdict. Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Home) said, “Mobile internet and data services have been suspended for 72 hours in Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh with immediate effect.”

The self-styled spiritual leader took to Twitter to confirm that he would appear on Friday for the case hearing, following which a high alert was sounded by the government along with an appeal to the public to remain calm.

A former female follower alleged that Gurmeet repeatedly raped her at the Dera campus, which is near Sirsa town. The alleged incident took place in 1999, while the FIR was registered in 2002.

Dera Sacha Sauda is a non-profit social welfare and spiritual organization that is mainly located at Sirsa in Haryana. The DSS has 46 ashrams (divisions) across India and many branches worldwide, with over 60 million followers.

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