Again expressing displeasure over the failure of the Haryana government in executing non-bailable warrants (NBWs) against self-styled godman Rampal in a contempt case, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday observed that even small-time wrongdoers would be tempted to follow the strategy adopted by Rampal to evade arrest. It gave the government till Friday to execute fresh warrants and produce Rampal in court.
As the government failed to produce Rampal — who is in his Satlok Ashram in Barwala (Hisar) protected by a shield of armed supporters — on Monday as well, the bench of justice M Jeyapaul rejected Rampal’s counsel’s request for hearing through video-conferencing or more time on account of ill health: “We are prepared to address that health issue. The fact remains that contemnor Rampal is bold enough to hide in Satlok Ashram with a human shield.”
While issuing fresh NBWs against Rampal, the HC observed: “Police authorities cannot unduly wait for days together to execute the warrants issued by this court… [It] is bound to send a wrong signal to the public.”
This is the third time within two weeks that NBWs against Rampal have been issued by the HC in a contempt-of-court case for allegedly interfering with proceedings at a Hisar court earlier this year. Meanwhile, the court also set in motion the process for cancellation of bail to Rampal in the original case in which a man was killed in firing from his ashram in Rohtak in 2006.
‘Without much bloodshed’
However, the court did somewhat soften its stand towards the government on Monday after a sealed report was submitted by Haryana advocate general BR Mahajan. “We hope and trust that the NBWs issued by this court would be executed in a short while without much bloodshed,” the bench said.
It did say again that if warrants were not executed the state’s director general of police (DGP) and home secretary would have to appear at the next hearing. DGP SN Vashisht and additional chief secretary PK Mahapatra were present in court on Monday as well. The AG explained to the court that warrants could not be executed as it would have resulted in mass casualties since a human shield was formed comprising by rampal’s followers, including women and children, to avoid his arrest.
He also submitted that water and electricity to the ashram had been disconnected and supplies from outside stopped. But the court asked if the state had registered any case against anybody who had not allowed officials to arrest Rampal. No immediate response was given by the state authorities.
Key events so far: A timeline
July 2006: Violence between followers of Rampal and Arya Samaj followers at his ashram in Karontha, Rohtak. One person died, Rampal booked for murder.
April 2008: HC grants exemption to Rampal from personal hearing in that case before Rohtak court.
July 2014: Violence in the courts of Hisar and Rohtak when Rampal deposed before Rohtak court through video conferencing from Hisar court.
August 2014: District judges of Hisar and Rohtak write to HC complaining about lawlessness during trial. Court initiates contempt proceedings against Rampal and his aide Ram Kanwar Dhaka.
November 5: As duo do not appear despite court orders, HC issues non-bailable warrants of arrest.
November 10: Dhaka presented by police in court. Court issues fresh NBWs against Rampal.
November 17: Authorities again fail to arrest and present Rampal; fresh warrants issued.