Fifteen years after the Punjab & Haryana High Court received an anonymous letter alleging that the Dera Sacha Sauda chief had sexually exploited women in the organisation's headquarters, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted for rape and criminal intimidation. The verdict was announced by a special CBI court in Panchkula. And within two days of his conviction, violence wreaked by his followers left 36 people dead, public and private properties worth crores destroyed.
The Punjab & Haryana High Court was not amused. The court took the Haryana government and the Dera followers to the cleaners over the violence that ravaged Panchkula. The Centre was not spared either.
During a special hearing on Saturday, the court minced no words when additional solicitor general Satya Pal Jain argued that other states -- with governments formed by other parties -- have witnessed similar incidents of violence.
"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. You (Satya Pal Jain) are Additional Solicitor General of India, not of any party," the full bench of the High Court said, reports The Indian Express.
The bench was chaired by acting chief justice SS Saron and justices Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan.
According to the Hindustan Times, the judges also said that the Centre's reaction was nothing better than a 'knee-jerk' response. They also questioned: "Why do you (the Centre) treat the region as colonies?"
Observing that the Haryana government had actually let the Dera followers run amok, the court said, that they had "surrendered before the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda for political considerations". The Indian Express reports that the court didn't stop at that, they accused Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar of 'protecting' Dera, and said, "This was a political surrender to allure vote bank."
They added that outsiders were allowed to gather and take up public space in Panchkula under the watch of the government.
NDTV reports that even earlier, the court had levelled similar allegations against the Khattar government. They had said: ""You let a city like Panchkula burn for political motives."
Dera, according to NDTV, had endorsed the BJP during elections in both Punjab and Haryana.
On August 25, the court had ordered that compensation of damage to private and public property will be recovered from Dera Sacha Sauda.
PTI reports that the court had said "in case people indulge in causing loss to the properties, the process will be videographed and total loss will be recovered from the Dera'.
They added: ""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."
PTI reports that, expecting intervention and political manipulation, the High Court directed the additional solicitor general to make sure law enforcement agencies conduct enquiries without any impediment. "Officers dealing with the situation will perform their job without fear and favour. In case any officer is found wanting in performing duty, strict action will be taken by the court," the court said, warning political leaders of interfering with government servants performing their duties.
Despite a ban on large gatherings, nearly 1.5 lakh Dera Sacha Sauda followers descended upon Panchkula destroying the city and taking lives following the conviction of their leader.