After Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was held guilty of rape by a court in Panchkula on Friday, a retired CBI officer who headed the investigations against the influential Dera Sacha Sauda chief revealed that he was under pressure to close the case and described it as a "game of wits".
Former CBI joint director Mulinja Narayanan told the Press Trust of India: "It was a game of wits. Sometimes we won and sometimes we lost but, at the end, today's verdict showed that no one can escape the law of the land."
Mr Narayanan was Deputy Inspector General of Police (Special Crimes) in Delhi when the Punjab and Haryana High Court handed the case to the CBI in September 2002.
"The case was registered on December 12, 2002 and suddenly I found a senior CBI official entering my room and directing me that the case needs to be closed and no action should be taken," PTI quoted the 67-year-old retired officer as saying.
Mr Narayanan said he sensed there were "many skeletons in this cupboard" and decided to probe deeper.
"Later, as the investigations carried on, many powerful politicians and business persons walked into the CBI headquarters and put lot of pressure to close the case. But thanks to the judiciary, we could manage to complete our investigation," he said.
Mr Narayanan retired in 2009 after 38 years of service; he was the first officer in the CBI who rose from the post of sub-inspector to joint director.
The CBI filed a case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2002 after being asked by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to investigate anonymous letters that alleged he had sexually exploited two 'sadhvis' or women followers at the Dera headquarters in Sirsa.
Speaking about the investigation, he said it was difficult to track down one of the women. "The girl, who had been sexually abused in 1999, had since left Dera and got married. It was a daunting task to convince her as well as her family members. Thankfully, I played the role of a father for her and ensured that she not only gives her statement but also testifies before a magistrate," the officer said.
"I wanted to ensure that no one plays dirty and weakens the case later. Therefore, I got the statement of the girl recorded before a magistrate so that retracting it becomes nearly impossible."
The Dera chief, he said, appeared "scared" during his questioning, Mr Narayanan remembered. "... he did not give any direct reply. He pretended to be a baba but my instincts told me that he was a scared person during the questioning," he said.
The former CBI officer also commented that he was surprised when even his juniors asked him to stop the probe. "My seniors knew my professionalism. I do not succumb to pressures but what surprised me was that some of my subordinate staff came and made vehement requests that I should stop the probe against Gurmeet Singh," he said.
Mr Narayanan was decorated with a Police Medal for Meritorious Services in 1992 and a President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 1999.