Chandigarh, Aug. 26: Punjab and Haryana High Court today accused the Manohar Lal Khattar government of "political surrender to allure a vote bank", bluntly asking the chief minister why he had allowed the assembly of Dera Sacha Sauda supporters who rioted against the rape conviction of their guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim yesterday.
As many as 36 people have died in the violence. Most of the deaths were in Haryana's Panchkula, where the CBI special court that convicted Gurmeet is located. The police said all the dead were from outside Panchkula, suggesting they were Dera supporters.
A three-judge bench asked why the Haryana government had allowed Dera supporters to gather in Panchkula for seven days ahead of the verdict.
"The chief minister is also the home minister - why have you allowed people to assemble for seven days?'" a lawyer who was in the courtroom quoted the bench as asking Haryana advocate-general Baldev Raj Mahajan.
"You have been misleading (us). There is a sea of difference between administrative and political decisions. Administrative decisions were paralysed because of political decisions," the bench of acting Chief Justice S. Singh Saron and Justices Avneesh Jhingan and Surya Kant added.
Chief minister Khattar's finger-pointing at mischievous elements among Dera supporters left the court unimpressed. "If they were antisocial elements, why were they allowed entry for seven days?" it asked. "This was political surrender to allure a vote bank."
"After the CBI court verdict, you immediately came to know that anti-social elements got mixed up with the followers, but how is it that you failed to take note when a large number of Dera followers arrived in Panchkula," PTI quoted the bench as asking.
The observations almost echoed the questions the then BJP government in Uttar Pradesh had faced after the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. The Kalyan Singh government had assured the Supreme Court till the last moment that only symbolic kar seva would be conducted and no law would be broken. Exactly the opposite took place on the ground - as was the case in Haryana yesterday.
Today, the high court bench was reviewing the situation in connection with a public interest plea from a Panchkula lawyer who had sought a security beef-up ahead of yesterday's verdict.
The bench asked the Haryana advocate-general if ministers Ram Bilas Sharma and Anil Vij had sanctioned grants of Rs 50 lakh each to the Dera.
Additional solicitor-general of India Satya Pal Jain told the bench that all forces available had been deployed. He added that such violence had happened in states ruled by other parties as well.
After giving a patient hearing to Jain, The court said national integrity was above parties. "Are we one nation or a party nation?" Referring indirectly to a lawyer's statement questioning Jain's allegiance, the bench added: "You should get the politicians to understand this: the nation is one. The Prime Minister is of India, and not a party. The chief minister is also of the state, and not a party. You are the additional solicitor-general of India, and not of the BJP."