Taking note of news reports about a “ruckus” created by tourists at Manikaran, Bilaspur and Manali early this week, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Friday directed the state government to file a status report on the matter.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Sabina and Justice Satyen Vaidya issued notices to Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (Home), Director General of Police (DGP), Deputy Commissioners of Kullu and Bilaspur, and Superintendents of Police (SP) of Kullu and Bilaspur, and listed the case for hearing on March 13.
The bench passed the order on a writ petition taken up suo moto as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the basis of reports that were published in newspapers on March 6 and 7.
According to the news reports, tourists from Punjab went on a rampage in Manikaran on the night of March 5 and a “riot-like situation” was witnessed as over 100 “hooligans” from Punjab, carrying flags, created a “ruckus”.
The court cited another report which stated that after the incident at Manikaran, hundreds of devotees from Punjab gathered on the afternoon of March 6 and created a ruckus at Garamor in Bilaspur district and the Chandigarh-Manali national highway was closed for about one-and-a-half hours.
According to police, four people were injured in the clash between pilgrims from neighbouring Punjab and local people during a fair in Manikaran on the night of March 5.
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Parked vehicles bearing Punjab and Himachal Pradesh registration numbers were damaged and pilgrims pelted stones at houses, the police had said.
Following the incident, scores of pilgrims from Punjab blocked the road at Garha Maura in Bilaspur, alleging that they were being harassed by Himachal Pradesh Police.
In a statement issued on Friday, police said a case has been registered in connection with the clash in Manikaran and a Special Investigation Team has been constituted to probe the case.
A case has been registered in Manikaran under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 149 (unlawful assembly) and 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the Indian Penal Code and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, the statement said.
The DGP has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by DIG-Central Range, Mandi, Madhu Sudan, and comprising Kullu SP Sakshi Verma and Commandant 3rd Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB), Pandoh, Bhagat Singh Thakur to investigate the case, it said.
The SIT has been directed to take up the investigation of the case immediately and conduct an impartial probe to ensure transparency, the statement said.