Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, head of the spiritual organization Dera Sacha Sauda, received the sentence on
Thursday through a video link in prison, where he is serving 20 years for the rape of two female followers.
Self-styled «godman» Singh, along with aides Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal, was convicted on murder charges and criminal conspiracy by a court in Panchkula in northern Haryana state on Friday last week.
Despite his earlier conviction, Singh remains an influential figure in India where he commands a loyal and devoted following. Known as the «guru of bling» on account of his previously flamboyant lifestyle, Singh starred in five films and numerous popular music videos, including the «Messenger of God,» in which he acts as the hero who saves the nation.
In 2002, Ram Chander Chhatrapati, the editor of Hindi-language daily «Poora Sacch» was shot dead
following the publication of an anonymous letter by one of Singh's followers.
The letter, which eventually led to the 2017 sentencing of Singh, described incidents of sexual abuse at the Dera Sacha Sauda compound in the state of Haryana.
Speaking at a press conference after Singh's 2017 sentencing, Chhatrapati's son Anshul said that his father's death had been a direct result of his decision to publish the anonymous letter.
«My faith in law has been reaffirmed. The sacrifice of my father was to uphold the journalistic principles of complete truth,» he added.
Police in northern India have been placed on standby following Thursday's sentencing. Singh's conviction in 2017 sparked deadly protests, as supporters went on a rampage in towns across the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana.