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Meet the three judges who took PM Modi, CM Khattar to task over Dera violence

A three-judge bench of acting chief justice SS Saron, justice Surya Kant and justice Avneesh Jhingan termed the government’s failure to contain the violence a “political surrender to lure vote banks”, and slammed the Centre for responding to the situation with a “knee-jerk reaction”.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2017 13:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigah
Dera Sacha Sauda,Violence,Punjab and Haryana high court
(From left) Justice Surya Kant, Justice SS Saron and Justice Avneesh Jhingan minced no words in slamming the Haryana government for “protecting” Dera followers.

The Punjab and Haryana high court on Saturday came down heavily on the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Haryana government for failing to prevent largescale violence and arson by followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was convicted of rape by a special CBI court the previous day.

Terming the government’s approach a “political surrender to lure vote banks”, a three-judge bench comprising acting chief justice SS Saron and justices Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan wondered why the authorities did not prevent over two lakh followers from gathering at Panchkula in abject violation of prohibitory orders. They also dubbed the Centre’s response to the situation as a “knee-jerk reaction”, reminding Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he was heading an entire country -- not a single political party.

The court also observed that the BJP government in Haryana seemed to have “surrendered before the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda for political considerations”, asking chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar how his government failed to take note when large number of Dera followers arrived in Panchkula.

Here’s a look at the three judges who took the government to task in one of the most scathing judicial observations made in recent times.

Justice SS Saron

Second only to the Punjab and Haryana high court chief justice in seniority, 61-year-old Justice Saron always believed in calling a spade a spade. He presided over several cases that made national headlines during his tenure, including the 2016 Jat quota violence case and the quashing of chief parliamentary secretary appointments in Haryana.

Justice Saron launched his legal practice in Sangrur after enrolling as an advocate in 1980. He later worked with the Punjab government as a law officer before being appointed as a judge in July 2002.

This is not the first time the Haryana government has found itself at the receiving end of Justice Saron’s ire. While hearing a public interest litigation on the Jat agitation, he had slammed the authorities for not only conducting a shoddy investigation in the case but also denying that the Murthal gang rape — where at least 10 women were allegedly pulled out of cars and raped by rioters — had even occurred. “(The) rapes had taken place, and the culprits were required to be booked for instilling confidence in the public at large,” he had said at a hearing on the case.

Earlier this year, the judge had disposed of a public interest litigation that questioned the appearance of cricketer-turned-Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu in a televised comedy show. “Those in public life should observe restraint, but how far can we go? We cannot begin moral policing of politicians,” he had said then.

Justice Saron will retire from judicial service on September 3.

Justice Surya Kant

Nobody would deny that 55-year-old Justice Kant, who is currently presiding over a special bench monitoring the Punjab police’s probe into a Rs 6,000-crore drug racket case, is a bold judge. He has several notable judgments, including the provision of conjugal rights to jail inmates and setting aside the state government’s decision to allot 350 acres of land in Gurgaon to real estate giant DLF, under his belt.

Justice Kant launched his practice at the Hisar district court in 1984, and went on to become the youngest advocate general of Haryana at the age of 38. He was appointed as a high court judge at the age of 42.

Justice Avneesh Jhingan

Justice Jhingan, the youngest among the three, was elevated to the position of high court judge in July. The 48-year-old, who hails from a family of lawyers, is a graduate of Panjab University. He mainly deals with civil and taxation cases.

He had earlier collaborated with Justice Saron in hearing a petition pertaining to the voting rights of nominated councillors in the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh.

First Published: Aug 27, 2017 10:52 IST