Asserting that it is not immune to criticism, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday asked lawyers to exercise restraint and not say anything that could prejudice Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s appeal against his conviction for rape. The court said its primary concern was the law and order situation and compensation to those whose property had been damaged in the violence.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice S S Saron and Justice Avneesh Jhingan —- who are part of a full bench that has been monitoring the law and order situation in Punjab and Haryana —- made these oral observations while hearing two PILs seeking legal action against BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj and Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma for issuing “inflammatory statements and challenging the authority of the court”.
“Don’t get surcharged. Insofar as the criticism is considered, let us be open to it. We are not immune to criticism. Every institution is open to criticism… We have to do our work with dedication,” said the division bench. “We will face the criticism. If somebody criticises…they can criticise.”
The bench said it did not want to dilute the main issue by enlarging the scope of its monitoring of the law and order situation. “These are difficult times. The whole High Court is under watch. It does not mean just the judges are under watch but the lawyers are under watch too. Don’t do anything irresponsible. This is our testing time,” it observed.
Stating that Ram Rahim was entitled to his rights and the High Court would have to decide his appeal fairly, the division bench asked the lawyers to abstain from saying anything that could prejudice his case. “Don’t prejudice the appeal of the convict, which is yet to be filed. I have not read it. You have not read it,” said the division bench. “We have to be fair to every convict. Don’t say anything against anybody which can prejudice his rights.”
The two petitions were ordered to be listed with the main case, which is to heard on Tuesday. The HC had earlier said “the members of the Bar are requested to make their suggestions in writing and also formulate the questions which are required to be gone into” in the main case on law and order situation in the two states.