In an indication that all deras and ashrams in the region could come under the court scanner, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday issued notices of motion to Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda and the Haryana government, but also included Punjab and Chandigarh in the case, stating that “similar deras/ashrams” were being maintained there as well.
The notices were issued on suo motu proceedings initiated by the HC following intelligence inputs of arms training by ex-servicemen at Dera Sacha Sauda were put before the high court during a hearing last Friday.
The Sirsa dera is headed by controversial preacher Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The petition was taken up on Thursday by the division bench of justice TPS Mann and justice Shekher Dhawan. The HC issued notices to Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, besides the dera. The court has fixed the date of the next hearing for January 14, 2015.
In its order last Friday, the HC had advocated periodic monitoring of activities of the Sirsa dera by the top brass of the state and a search operation to unearth illegal arms and ammunition, if any, to avoid future bloody confrontation. It had opined that training of private commandos and arming them with illegal weapons to protect some individuals would ‘definitely’ pose a challenge not only to the judiciary but also to the state.
The bench of justice M Jeyapaul had proposed the case for a public interest litigation, which was taken up by the court on Thursday.
Anupam Gupta, amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) in the contempt of court proceedings against Barwala sect head Rampal, had last week produced before the HC a letter written by an army intelligence unit in 2011 to its other sister units, cautioning them that they should not associate themselves with any kind of activities of Dera Sacha Sauda. It was also stated in the letter that some ex-servicemen were training private commandos of the dera.
The court, in its order, had taken into account the kind of opposition the authorities faced in arresting Rampal and the loss of life and damage to government property and had recorded that the ‘situation could ‘slip out of hand’ (if corrective measures were not taken).