A DAY after followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh unleashed a wave of violence following his rape conviction, leaving 36 people dead, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Saturday pulled up both the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Manohar Lal Khattar government in the state.
“National integration and law and order are above everything. We are one nation, not a party nation. Politicians need to understand that the nation is one. It is the Prime Minister of India, not BJP. It is the Chief Minister of the state, not BJP. You (Satya Pal Jain) are Additional Solicitor General of India, not of any party,” said a full Bench of the High Court at a special hearing on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the court notified the Rohtak district jail, where the Dera chief has been taken, as a “place of sitting of the CBI Court of Additional District & Sessions Judge, Panchkula” for the pronouncement of his sentence on Monday. The court ordered the authorities to make arrangements for the security and safe transport by air of the CBI Court judge.
Stating that the Centre was treating Punjab and Haryana like a “colony”, the court said it should play a more active role. On Thursday, the court had noted that the Centre should not “abdicate or avoid its responsibility”. The court observed that the Khattar government seemed to have “surrendered before the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda for political considerations.” “This was a political surrender to allure vote bank,” it observed, adding that Khattar was “protecting” the Dera.
“The Chief Minister is also the Home Minister. Why could you not prevent the crowd from gathering for the last seven days? They were all outsiders, but were allowed to enter Panchkula, stay there and occupy public place,” said the Bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice S S Saron and Justices Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan. “You have been misleading us. There has been a sea difference between administrative and political decisions. Administrative decisions were paralysed because of the political reasons,” it said.
Taking note of the suspension of Panchkula DCP Ashok Kumar, the court said a deeper probe was required to ascertain who was behind the flip-flop over the orders to impose Section 144. “It has strengthened our belief that it is all political,” said the bench. “You allowed the crowd to gather. A probe will expose it.”
The court directed all the deputy commissioners of Punjab and Haryana to invite applications for claims regarding the damage caused to public and private properties during the violence, and ordered that no property of the Dera Sacha Sauda shall be “sold, transferred and encumbered” in any manner.
“The deputy commissioners in the States of Haryana and Punjab are directed to identify the assets and properties of Dera Sacha Sauda and submit a list of the same in this court for attachment. The list should include assets, incomes, bank accounts and properties,” said the Bench. “The reports of interception of messages given by the Dera Sacha Sauda inciting violence shall be submitted in this court in a sealed cover.”
The AGs of both the states have been directed to submit in sealed covers their strategies and plan for “preventing this kind of incidents of violence and arson in future and whether such planning includes the complete sensitisation of Dera Sacha Sauda”.
The Bench said that a status report of the persons killed in the mayhem should also be submitted. “The States of Punjab and Haryana shall also submit the details of expenses incurred in making all types of arrangements at Panchkula and other parts of the states,” it said.
In its report to the court, the Haryana government said “arrests of as many as 524 persons have been made in Panchkula, 24 vehicles have been seized, five pistols with 79 rounds, besides, two rifles with 52 rounds, were recovered. Moreover, iron rods, ‘dandas’, hockey sticks and ten petrol bombs were also recovered.”
The Punjab government told the court that “there have been as many as 51 incidents in Punjab and 39 FIRs have been registered; besides, 19 miscreants have been arrested, including one Gurdev Singh, who is a state-level office-bearer of Dera Sacha Sauda.”