Coming straight to the crux of the matter, let me begin by first and foremost pointing out that the Punjab and Haryana High Court has very strongly pulled up both the Narendra Modi government and the Manoharlal Khattar government in the state of Haryana on August 26 that is a day after 32 people were killed in the violence that was unleashed by followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh after he was convicted of raping two women. Needless to say, if Centre and State of Haryana had acted in time, there would have been no killings at all and at the most very few people would have been injured. But this most unfortunately was not to happen!
At the first place, why were lakhs of people allowed to assemble by the Haryana State government? Why when Section 144 of Cr PC was in operation were people allowed to assemble together in such large numbers? Why were they not dispersed right at the very beginning?
Also, why was no checking done? Why the mob was allowed to carry whatever they wanted with them to carry? Why they were not disarmed promptly? Why they were not placed under arrest?
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that a full Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court minced no words in saying that, “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. He (Satya Pal Jain) is Additional Solicitor General of India, not of any party.” It is shameful that so much of violence happened right under the very nose of PM Modi and CM of Haryana Khattar! Why PM Modi kept on doing ‘Maan Ki Baat’ but failed to ensure that security was briefed up entirely? Why CM Khattar allowed mob to indulge in unabated violence?
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that while stating that the Centre was treating Punjab and Haryana like a “colony”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said that it should play a more active role. Why the PM Modi was unable to gauge the extent of damage that lakhs of followers of Gurmeet Baba Ram Rahim Singh could cause at all such places where they were in considerable numbers? On August 24, the Supreme Court had noted that the Centre should not “abdicate or avoid its responsibility”.
Truly speaking, a full Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court comprising of Acting Chief Justice SS Saron and Justices Avneesh Jhingan and Surya Kant were hearing a Public Interest Litigation petition by a Panchkula resident raising law and order concerns as a large number of people had reportedly entered the district despite prohibitory orders. The Bench remarked categorically that, “This was political surrender to allure vote bank, they [the Dera followers] were outside, you allowed them to enter and stay.”
Truth be told, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had observed that the Khattar government seemed to have “surrendered before the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda for political considerations.” The Court also observed that, “This was a political surrender to allure vote bank. Khattar was ‘protecting’ the Dera.” The entire ruling establishment both at the Centre and in the State must seriously introspect on this!
It is quite ostensible that the Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court was very miffed over the way the security and safety of citizens was taken for granted. The Bench said that, “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 space.” This clearly implies that the entry of lakhs of people in Haryana had the tacit support of Chief Minister Khattar because they could not have gathered in such large numbers without his consent!
As it turned out, while taking note of the suspension of Panchkula District Commissioner of Police (DCP) Ashok Kumar, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said a deeper probe was required to ascertain who was behind the flip-flop over the orders to impose Section 144. The Bench said that, “It has strengthened our belief that it is all political. You allowed the crowd to gather. A probe will expose it.” Without a doubt, there is some grain of truth in what the Bench has said! This certainly merits a free, fair and impartial inquiry headed by a former Chief Justice of India!
As things stand, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed 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 Bench said that, “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.” It also said that, “The reports of interception of the messages given by the Dera Sacha Sauda inciting violence shall be submitted in this Court in a sealed cover.”
It is imperative to mention here that the Advocate Generals of both the states have been directed to submit in sealed cover their strategies and plan for “preventing this kind of incidents of violence and arson in future and whether such planning includes the complete sensitization of Dera Sacha Sauda”. The Bench said that “a status report of the persons killed in the mayhem be also submitted. The States of Punjab and Haryana shall also submit the details of the expenses incurred in making all types of arrangements at Panchkula and other parts of the State.”
In hindsight, we see how more than 30 people were killed for no fault of theirs and how public property as well as private property was destroyed due to the complete inaction of the Haryana state government in deploying adequate force in time! The Haryana government itself told the Bench that 32 people killed, including 28 in Panchkula were killed in the violence.
The State Advocate General told the Bench that, “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 High 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.
To put things in perspective, the Punjab Advocate-General Atul Nanda said that, “The Bench has taken a serious cognizance of yesterday’s violence and said the loss due to the violence is a loss to the nation and the taxpayer. This loss will be compensated by those responsible for it.” The Punjab and Haryana High Court has also ordered the Haryana administration to make arrangements to take CBI Judge Jagdeep Singh and two of his staff members to the Rohtak district jail by air for pronouncing the quantum of sentence against Dera Sacha Sauda Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was convicted for rape on August 25. The Court notified the jail as a “place of sitting of the CBI court for the purpose of hearing of quantum of sentence.”
An order issued by the Registrar of the Punjab and Haryana High Court said: “Suitable accommodation for court room, etc. in the District jail, Rohtak at Sunaria shall be provided and arrangements also be made for the lawyers and parties to have an easy access in court room in the district jail. Further, necessary arrangements for security and safe transport by air of the judicial officer, who has to try the case in the district jail and two of staff members, shall also be made.”
All said and done, what Punjab and Haryana High Court has said must be taken most seriously by both Centre and Haryana State Government. It has rapped on the knuckles of both Centre and Haryana State Government. Full compensation must be recovered from the properties of Dear Sacha Sauda which should be identified and then seized so that those who have suffered from the mindless wanton violence indulged in by lakhs of followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh are suitably compensated!
But this alone is just not enough! It must be investigated thoroughly by a former CJI and CBI as to whether the wanton violence was pre-planned and if it was pre-planned then all those who were a part to it must be charged, tried and punished for murder and mass murder! Under no circumstances should they be allowed to go scot free!
In the ultimate analysis, just attaching property or awarding compensation is a positive step, no doubt but is a very small step which will certainly not act as a suitable deterrent unless accompanied by jail term and death sentence for all those involved in it hinging on the extent to which they are complicit in the commission of the crime! Overall, it is a very good judgment as it has not dithered in taking into task both PM and CM for not doing enough to check the mindless violence which claimed the precious life of so many people! If Army had been called in earlier, people in huge numbers who were followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh were not allowed to conglomerate in and around Panchkula and also huge force deployed right from the beginning then certainly the loss of lives could certainly have been mitigated!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.