Taking note of an Army advisory asking ex-servicemen to refrain from getting involved in arms training at Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday issued notices to the sect, governments of Haryana and Punjab, and the Chandigarh Administration seeking their response on the issue.
A division bench of Justice T P S Mann and Justice Shekhar Dhawan has asked the respondents to file their reply by January 14. The bench issued notices to the two state governments and the Union Territory Administration after taking cognisance of a Military Intelligence Directorate report, which was placed before the court during the hearing in the case of self-styled godman Rampal last month.
On November 28, during arguments in the court of Justice M Jeyapaul and Justice Darshan Singh, amicus curiae Anupam Gupta sought judicial intervention while referring to a military advisory, dated December 13, 2010, regarding weapons training being given to activists of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda by ex-servicemen.
“This advisory expresses concern at the highest level in Indian army over a problem which, if not attended today, will blow out of control in future… Arms training given in Dera Sacha Sauda exemplified by the advisory would also warrant judicial intervention whether in contempt proceedings against Rampal or any independent proceeding,” Gupta had said.
The court had then expressed serious concern about deras or religious places in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh where arms and ammunition were being used illegally, and observed that the submissions by the amicus curiae be treated as a public interest litigation (PIL).
Accordingly, the matter was treated as PIL and referred to the bench of Justice Mann and Justice Dhawan. The Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, headed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, with considerable following in states of Haryana and Punjab, had courted controversies in the past during assembly elections in the two states. The state administration of Haryana has been cautious ever since the police recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunitions along with other objectionable items from Rampal’s Satlok Ashram in Barwala in Hisar district.