The Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) on Tuesday appointed retired District and Sessions Judge AKS Panwar as Judicial Officer for the supervision of sanitisation of the controversial Dera whose head Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been recently awarded 20-year imprisonment for raping female followers.

Decision came after a plea filed by the state government requesting the HC for appointment of Judicial Officer for the supervision of the search mission.

The full bench of the HC comprising Justice Surya Kant, Justice Augustine George Masih and Justice Avneesh Jhingan appointed Panwar as Court Commissioner for the task.

While speaking to The Statesman, Haryana Advocate General (AG) BR Mahajan said that Panwar would act as Court Commissioner for the sanitisation process of the Dera.

Besides, he would be provided the required staff, office and other needed facilities as per directed by the HC, he added.

Mahajan said that Panwar would submit the sealed-in-cover report to the HC as well as the state government after the sanitisation is accomplished.

Following a deadline set by the police, the Dera followers in Sirsa have deposited over 30 weapons, including rifles and pistols along with live cartridges.

Earlier, the Haryana police had sanitised 103 Naam Charcha Ghars (places meant for congregation of Dera followers) in different districts and recovered a large number of sharp edged weapons and other objectionable items including sticks, iron rods, bottles of diesel, petrol and kerosene.

The controversial Dera based in Haryana’s Sirsa again hit the headlines after the conviction of its head Gurmeet Ram Rahim by the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Panchkula on 25 August.

Following the conviction of the self-styled godman, the Dera followers mainly in Panchkula and Sirsa districts clashed with the security agencies and set properties and vehicles on fire.

The violence claimed 38 lives and left over 100 injured.

After the Dera chief sentenced 20-year jail term for rape incidents, security agencies were put on high alert. Army, para-military forces and Haryana police personnel have been deployed in Sirsa where the authorities are yet to sanitise the Dera headquarter.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Monday said that the administration will enter the Dera headquarter only after the HC appoints the judicial officer for this purpose.

In view of the Dera followers started thronging the Panchkula city days before conviction of the sect head, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed requesting the court to monitor the law and order situation and security arrangements in Haryana in view of the special CBI court’s verdict in sexual exploitation case.