Punjab and Haryana High Court slams Khattar government for failing to prevent violence
A day after deadly violence claimed 31 lives and left over 250 injured in Haryana, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Saturday came down heavily on the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government, calling its inaction “a political surrender to allure vote bank.”A full Bench of the court, comprising acting Chief Justice S.S. Saron and Justices Avneesh Jhingan and Surya Kant, was hearing a Public Interest Litigation petition filed by a Panchkula resident, raising law and order concerns as a large number of people had reportedly entered the district, despite prohibitory orders.“This was political surrender to allure vote bank, they [the Dera followers] were outsiders, you allowed them to enter and stay,” the court remarked.Asking how the State government had not taken notice of the build-up of Dera supporters in Panchkula, the court — in the backdrop of Mr. Khattar’s alleged statement on Friday that anti-social elements had created the problem — remarked: “If the Chief Minister was aware of the presence of anti-social elements, why the government was not able to prevent their entry for the past seven days?”The court, while remarking on the statement of Additional Solicitor-General Satya Pal Jain (representing the Centre) that Friday’s violence was a matter of the State, said: “The Prime Minister is PM of the country and not of particular party… Is Punjab and Haryana not a part of India?”The court, as an interim measure, directed the Deputy Commissioners in Haryana and Punjab to identify the assets and properties of the Dera Sacha Sauda and submit a list of the same to the court for attachment.“The list should include assets, incomes, bank accounts and properties. However, till then, no properties of the Dera Sacha Sauda shall be sold, transferred, alienated or encumbered in any manner,” said the order.Application for damageThe court said the Deputy Commissioners in Haryana and Punjab shall invite applications for claims for damage caused to public and private properties, which shall be verified and forwarded to the court through the offices of the Advocate-Generals of Punjab and Haryana.“The Bench has taken a serious cognisance 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,” said Punjab Advocate-General Atul Nanda.‘Fly CBI judge to jail’The court 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 chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was convicted for rape on Friday.The court notified the jail as a “place of sitting of the CBI court for the purpose of hearing of quantum of sentence.”The Dera chief is lodged in Rohtak jail, and the quantum of sentence will be announced on Monday.An order issued by the Registrar of the Punjab and 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.”Haryana Government suspended Ashok Kumar, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of Panchkula, and posted Manbir Singh as the new DCP.Tens of thousands of Dera followers went on the rampage in Panchkula on Friday as the news broke that their chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had been convicted of rape by a CBI special court. The violence spread to other towns in Haryana and parts of Punjab as well. Few incidents of arson were reported in Delhi.