Chandigarh: The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday said the mayhem caused by followers of convicted godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh last Friday was a "war-like situation". Violence broke out in Panchkula after Ram Rahim was convicted of raping two of his followers on Friday that left at least 32 people dead, including six in Sirsa, and over 200 injured. Property worth crores was also damaged by his angry supporters.
The court directed Punjab and Haryana governments to set up Special Investigation Teams (SITs) to investigate all the cases registered at various places in connection with Dera violence. The bench, comprising Justices SS Saron, Surya Kant and Avneesh Jhingan, directed that no FIR shall be cancelled without its permission. It also ordered the Haryana government to file status report regarding steps taken to sanitise Dera Sacha Sauda centres including its headquarters in Sirsa.
The Dera counsel reasoned that security forces should have used rubber bullets instead of opening fire to disperse the mob in Panchkula. The judges, however, disagreed.
"You can't go soft when some people come armed with petrol bombs and deadly weapons to indulge in arson and lawlessness," the court said.
"This was a war-like situation and it had to be fought like a war-like situation," Justice Saron observed.
Senior advocate Anupam Gupta added that entire Haryana would have burnt had the security forces not responded strongly to the situation.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by a Panchkula resident Ravinder Dhull, a lawyer, who had raised law and order concerns and said that over 1.5 lakh people had reportedly entered the district despite prohibitory orders.
The court directed that case diaries of each FIR and the report of investigation to be submitted on a monthly basis to the concerned "area magistrates", who will submit their comments to the High Court within 10 days.
The bench also demanded status report on the FIR it had asked to be registered on the basis of a newspaper report which alleged that some senior Dera functionaries had instigated and mobilised followers.
(With inputs from PTI)