The Punjab and Haryana high court has advocated periodic monitoring of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda by the top brass of Haryana, besides a search operation to unearth any illegal arms and ammunition to avoid bloody confrontations.
The observations are in the wake of violence during an operation to arrest Satlok Ashram head Rampal at Barwala in the state’s Hisar district. The search there later unearthed a cache of arms.
In its order released after Friday’s hearing of the contempt case against Rampal, the HC opines 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”.
Noting that Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is facing cases of murder and rape, and an instance when “he chose” to bring thousands of followers to the premises of a sessions court, the court terms the monitoring an “absolute need of the hour”.
“Religious places are meant only to impart religious discourses and not for giving training to private commandos to protect the head of dera/ashram. At any rate, it cannot be used as a dumping ground of arms and ammunition,” says the detailed order made available now.
It further states that unless illegal activities are monitored by top-level bureaucrats and the police, the situation would “slip out of hand”.
The bench of justice M Jeyapaul has found the matter fit for a public interest litigation and directed the court registry to place it before the acting chief justice for an appropriate decision.
“The details (of Satlok Ashram violence) meticulously given by director general [of] police, Haryana, in his comprehensive report are brought to light by us to visualise the import of the internal circular issued by the military intelligence directorate from its headquarters,” the HC order reads, referring to a letter written by an the army intelligence unit in 2011 to its sister units cautioning them against associating with any activities of Dera Sacha Sauda.
This letter — submitted before the bench by amicus curiae Anupam Gupta, who is assisting the court — said some former army personnel were training a private army of the Dera Sacha Sauda.
Rampal’s counsel and the government reacted sharply and submitted that any order from the court (beyond the express matter) would show prejudice.
The court did take note of the opposition authorities faced in arresting Rampal. There was gunfire and use of petrol bombs by his followers. As per the government report, six persons lost their lives and government property worth crores was damaged, while 109 police personnel suffered injuries. Various agencies claim to have incurred expenditure of `27 crore on security arrangements and the operation to arrest Rampal, who is in jail in Hisar now.