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Guru in jail, most of followers accused of Panchkula violence are now out on bail

Besides the cases of violence against his aides and followers, the acts of omission and commission done in the past by different state governments in Haryana for the Dera have also been unearthed following the intervention of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | Chandigarh | Published: August 25, 2018 12:54:48 am
Guru in jail, most of followers accused of Panchkula violence are now out on bail Clash between security forces and dera followers on August 25 last year. (Express photo)

A year since the Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted for raping his two disciples, the law has caught up with the Dera like never before. Besides the cases of violence against his aides and followers, the acts of omission and commission done in the past by different state governments in Haryana for the Dera have also been unearthed following the intervention of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Criminal cases
Around 1,438 persons, including the members of top management of Sirsa dera, are currently facing prosecution in Haryana for the violence and arson committed in the state following Ram Rahim’s conviction on August 25 last year. The trial in the two murder cases against Ram Rahim has reached the final stage and also charges have been framed against dera head in a case where he is accused of castrating a number of dera followers.

While a majority of the accused in the cases are out on bail due to the tardy performance of prosecution before trial courts, the state has also failed to nab Ram Rahim’s close aide Aditya Insan, who is alleged to be the main conspirator of the violence which brought Haryana to its knees last year. The Haryana Police registered 240 cases against the followers of dera chief for violence, arson and destruction of public and private property. The investigation has been completed only in 207 cases since August 2017 and 12 accused have also been declared proclaimed offenders, including Aditya Insan.

The state government, after receiving strictures from the High Court, has now decided to attach the properties of Aditya Insan, who according to a full bench of the High Court has turned out to be a Shaktimaan for the police. The reward for information leading to his arrest has also been raised to Rs 1 lakh rupees. The police failure to arrest Aditya Insan is not the only front where the state has failed.

The government has refused to grant sanction for prosecution of accused under sedition in at least eight cases. This has resulted in the charges being dropped against nearly 150 accused in four such cases so far. The trend began in February when the trial court in Panchkula discharged 53 accused from offences of sedition and waging war against the nation. On July 3, the same charges were dropped against 41 accused. Only July 16, the sedition charges were dropped against 20 accused in another case. Only 21, the charges were dropped against 19 accused.

With many of the accused including Aditya Insan yet to be arrested in the main case registered for the conspiracy behind violence and arson in the state, the charges are yet to be framed against the accused for the conspiracy and mayhem witnessed by the state a year before. A total of 39 people have been arrested in the case and charge sheets have been filed in the court against 33, according to the latest data. While 10 accused are evading arrest in the case, more than 12 alleged conspirators are already out on bail. Ram Rahim’s ‘adopted daughter’ Honeypreet is also an accused in the same FIR.

In another important case registered against 17 accused for making a bid to free Ram Rahim from custody after his conviction, all but one accused are on bail. Charges are yet to be framed in the case too even if the police have booked the accused for waging war against the nation.
In one of the cases of violence, six accused were acquitted of the charges of violence in April by the trial court which recorded that the prosecution led “no good and reliable evidence” to prove its case.

Dera properties
Property worth over Rs 118 crore worth was damaged in the state by Dera followers during the violence last year, according to official estimates. The High Court last year restrained the Dera from any sale or transfer of its properties. The direction which still continues was aimed to recover the cost of damages from the Dera. But with the question of law on recovery yet to be decided by a full bench of the High Court, the process has not been started yet. However, the prohibitions on any transactions in the bank accounts of Dera continues.

According to an assessment carried out on the directions of the High Court, the properties belonging to the Dera Sacha Sauda in Haryana is worth around Rs 1600 crores. Since the assessment was done a number of skeletons have tumbled out revealing how the property was amassed. Enforcement Directorate last month sought a probe under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act into the transfer of 293 acres of agricultural land to Dera by the farmers by way of donations. 183 cases have also been re-opened by the Income Tax department while looking into the assets of Dera.

Following the High Court order for a probe into the land assets of Dera headquarters in Sirsa, 23 constructions there have been declared as unauthorised. The structures declared illegal include hospital buildings, school, petrol pump, industrial units and other buildings. The Dera in 2014 and 2015 had gone ahead with the constructions and told the government that the land is exempted from seeking sanction on change of land use and other provisions of law.
The absence of any executive action continued until the judicial scrutiny began in the land ownership and building permissions earlier this year. The question regarding the fate of their unauthorised buildings is likely to come in the proceedings before High Court which is monitoring the investigations against the Dera.

Dera-run institutions
Since the Dera is facing a number of cases in the courts and its assets continue to remain frozen, the High Court this year formed a number of committees for ad-hoc management of the schools and hospitals being run by Dera.
The six educational institutions of Dera are currently being run by the committee headed by Deputy Commissioner Sirsa and District Education Officer Sirsa and the Dera management is allowed to withdraw funds after permission from the committee for the purpose of salary and other requirements.

A governing body headed by the Civil Surgeon of Sirsa has also been constituted on the orders of the High Court for overall management of the hospital and other medical institutions being run by the Dera. The committee has been authorised to utilise funds for the functioning of the health institutions. A team of three senior Professor of a Rohtak university is also looking into the professional qualification of the medical and para-medical staff at the Dera-run institutions.

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