The hearing over the question of recovery of damages from Dera Sacha Sauda for August 2017 violence in Panchkula and other Haryana cities resumed on Wednesday with the Punjab and Haryana High Court asking whether there was a failure on part of state government in allowing people to gather around the court before verdict was to be pronounced in a rape case against Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim.
A full bench of the court observed that the right to assembly peacefully is a right but it is for furtherance or for achieving some legal goal. “What were they (Dera followers) doing? Nothing? They were not dangerous till they came here,” observed the court, while asking the amicus regarding any judgments for such gatherings.
Amicus Curiae and Senior Advocate Anupam Gupta argued that right to assembly and to gather is there but the question of anticipatory and precautionary measures by the executive, including source system of police, comes in play there too. “Haryana acted in collaboration and collusion of the private persons (Dera followers),” submitted Gupta.
The court also gave example of Jantar Mantar and recent JNU protests, observing that their protests have occurred with a particular aim in mind but in Panchkula case, the same was apparently missing. Gupta submitted that the gathering of people or Dera followers in Panchkula ahead of the verdict was meant to “overawe” the court.
Gupta also delved into the use of Section 144, 107, 109 and 151 CrPC by authorities regarding assembly of people at a particular place and said semantics has to be taken seriously in such orders. “If a word is carelessly used, its implications stick,” he said.
Pertinently, the Section 144 order issued by Panchkula administration in August 2017 did not make mention regarding prohibition of assembly of five or more persons and state AG later admitted before the High Court that there was a clerical mistake in the order and an amended order was passed later.
A massive violence had broken out in Haryana, particularly Panchkula, after the Dera head was convicted in a rape case. In the run up to the verdict by a Special CBI court at Panchkula, hundreds of Dera followers gathered outside the court complex and as soon as the verdict was pronounced, they indulged in violence causing destruction to property worth Rs 118 crores, as per official estimates. At least, 36 people were killed in Haryana in security forces’ action.
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