Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Punjab and Haryana High Court denies bail to self-styled Godman Rampal arrested under UAPA Act

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court has refused to grant bail to self-styled Godman Rampal, who was arrested under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for attempting to wage a war against the government in 2014.

The Bench of Justice G.S. Sandhawalia and Justice Alok Jain dismissed the regular bail application of the accused on the grounds that the petitioner was arrested with great difficulty at the precious cost of innocent lives of women and a child, who were used as human shields to evade arrest, apart from the fact that his long detention alone did not entitle him to bail.

It was alleged that when police went to arrest Rampal in a murder case in 2014, he gathered a large number of devotees, including women and children to resist his arrest. 

Accordingly, another FIR was registered in 2014 against the petitioner, which said that the petitioner made about 600-700 ladies and children sit outside the main gate and 1500-2000 young persons were stationed on the roof of Satlok Ashram in Hisar carrying lathis, bombs and guns. 

When the police announced on the loudspeaker that there had arrest warrants, the associates of the petitioner made persons sit outside the Ashram with jerricanes of diesel and petrol, who threatened the police that they would not allow the petitioner to be arrested and that the police would have to walk over their dead bodies to do so.

Four women and a child lost their lives in the incident, which also led to substantial damage to the property. Besides, 11 people received firearm injuries and more than 100 were injured, added the FIR.

The State invoked Section 15 of UAPA and submitted that there was usage of bombs and an attempt to overawe the State through criminal force and, therefore, it would amount to a terrorist act. It was also argued that a prima facie case was made against the petitioner.

While framing charges, the Trial Court noted that the trust set up by Rampal for pious purposes could not be permitted for undertaking ‘unlawful’ activities.

Perusing the charges framed by the Hisar’s Special Court, the Court observed that the allegations as such in the charge would go on to show that the petitioner was apparently acting with such intent which led to a siege of the Ashram for a period of almost three days before he was eventually arrested. The same was being supervised by Rampal out of the Ashram by way of close circuit TVs, which was also part of the challan, it noted.

After analysing relevant provisions of the UAPA, the Court it was clear that where any act was done to threaten the integrity and security of the country or to strike terror in people by the usage of bombs or other explosive substances, which can cause death or damage or destruction to property, would be a terrorist act.

The Court noted that Rampal took the benefit of his followers being pushed forward and used them as human shields to avoid the execution of non-bailable warrants within the premises of the Trust, which he had constituted.

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