The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday appointed a retired sessions judge as the Court Commissioner to oversee the “sanitisation” process of Dera Sacha Sauda premises at Sirsa, housing the headquarters of the sect.
The order came after Haryana government filed a plea on Friday seeking “permission to hold sanitisation process of the Dera headquarter at Sirsa under “judicial supervision”, following the incarceration of the sect chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, for raping two disciples.
“The high court bench appointed retired sessions judge AKS Pawar as Court Commissioner for the sanitisation of the Dera headquarters at Sirsa,” Haryana’s Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan said after the hearing in the matter today. He said the process will be taken up immediately and will be videographed. The state had sought the sanitisation of the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters under judicial supervision, Mahajan said.
Asked how soon the process would start, Mahajan said, “the state will request the Court Commissioner to take it up immediately.” He said the government will provide adequate security to ensure that the sanitisation process is carried out smoothly. Mahajan said a report of the whole process will be submitted to the high court by the commissioner, with a copy to be given to the state government.
The order was passed by the full bench comprising Justices Surya Kant, A G Mashih and Aneesh Jhingan. In its plea, the Haryana government had sought appointment of area magistrate or some other senior judicial officer to oversee the sanitisation process “to ensure greater transparency”.
The Dera headquarter at Sirsa is spread over nearly 800 acres with many residential, institutional and commercial buildings. “In the sanitisation process, officials of revenue and taxation department would participate, besides police and other security forces,” Mahajan said. The operations will be videographed, Mahajan said.
The high court had earlier taken up a PIL filed by Ravinder Dhull, a Panchkula resident, who had raised concerns over the law and order situation and stated that over 1.5 lakh people had reportedly entered the district earlier despite prohibitory orders.
Large-scale violence broke out in Panchkula after the Dera chief’s conviction in rape cases, leaving at least 35 people dead. Six others died in incidents of violence in Sirsa. Ram Rahim was later sentenced to 20 years in prison in the rape case.
On Monday, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had said that some “objectionable” items were found during the sanitisation of ‘Namcharcha Ghars’ (congregation centres of Dera Sacha Sauda) in the state. As many as 117 Namcharcha Ghars, associated with the Dera, have been sanitised in the state, he had said in Rewari.
Khattar had earlier said the high court was monitoring the Dera issue and the sanitisation process of the sect’s headquarters at Sirsa will be conducted only after the court takes up its application and gives necessary direction in this regard. Khattar had maintained that the forces cannot enter on their own without the court directions. “We do not want anybody to raise finger at us tomorrow that how we allowed them (the forces to go inside the sect’s headquarters),” the chief minister said.
The Haryana government had come under attack for allowing a huge build up of Dera Sacha Sauda followers in Panchkula. Khattar had said the violence could have turned much worse had the government not been alert.
The sect on Monday had said that the state government could carry out a search of its premises any time and it will cooperate with the authorities. “We have requested the district administration to search our premises in (Sirsa) any time. We will cooperate with them in this exercise,” Dera Sacha Sauda Chairperson Vipassana Insan had said in Sirsa. She also said that licensed weapons had been deposited by Dera followers at Sirsa with the police authorities.
Hearing the PIL last week, the high court had directed that Haryana and Punjab will set up Special Investigation Teams of three officers to be headed by an officer not below the rank of an ADGP to investigate all the FIRs registered at various places in connection with the Dera violence issue.
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