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PIL in SC on Dera row
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 24
Amidst a move to initiate dialogue on the Dera Sacha Sauda controversy, the Supreme Court has been approached in a public interest litigation, seeking a direction to the centre, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Chandigarh administration to take immediate steps to defuse tension in the region and restore peace and public order.

The PIL was moved by former Punjab deputy advocate general, Harvinder Kaur, with naming the centre, the governments of the three states, Union Territory of Chandigarh and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh as respondents.

Seeking to invoke the extraordinary writ jurisdiction of the apex court under Article 32 of the Constitution, Kaur said the direction be issued to all respondents to protect the religious sentiments of the people of all faiths.

The centre and the state governments were duty bound to protect the fundamental rights to life, dignity and religious freedom of all under Article 21 and 25 of the Constitution. “The respondents are the state machinery, hence they are covered under Article 12 of the Constitution to do their duty,” the PIL, expected to be mentioned before the court tomorrow, said.

It has also drawn the attention of the court towards the incidents of violence in the entire region, particularly attacks at many places on women and children, who were always easy targets during such strife.

Kaur claimed that thousands of people had fled their homes in some areas of Punjab, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir, fearing violence and sought a direction to the governments concerned, to ensure protection to life and property of every citizen and if necessary, the centre might be asked to deploy the Army.

The PIL said the facts, as narrated about the attacks on children and women and at some places even about their “molestation”, were based on a survey conducted by a team of five advocates who had visited various places in the region to get first hand information about the situation.

A special mention has been made about the death of 28-year-old youth Kanwaljit Singh in the firing at Sangrur in the PIL, stating that he became a victim to the unsavoury controversy and has left behind his wife and a six month-old child.

While stating that the agitation was still continuing in many areas, the PIL also gave graphic details how the controversy had erupted with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh allegedly appearing in some advertisements, attired in identical manner as the 10th Sikh Guru, Govind Singh used to dress up.

Though Kaur talked of restoring normalcy, at the same time, she claimed that the apology by Dera Sacha Sauda chief would not be sufficient. “The hurt is very grievous, he should give undertaking that he would not indulge in similar activity which might hurt the religious sentiments in some other manner.”

But at the same time, she also said the Akal Takht dictates on the closure of the Deras was not the solution. “The Deras are for ‘satsang’ and not for the meetings. They cannot be closed for few days,” it said.

The area, which the lawyers’ team claimed to have visited include, Bathinda, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ferozepore, Ludhiana, Mohali, Moga, Talwandi Bhai, Phagwara and Kapurthala.

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