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The Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday directed the Punjab government to set up a compensation commission within one week to decide the claims of victims of large scale violence witnessed in some parts of the state in 2009, in the wake of the death of a particular community leader, Sant Ramanand, in Vienna of Austria.

Directions were passed by a division bench comprising acting Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Alok Singh while hearing a PIL filed on the issue.

In its orders, the bench has also specified that such commission should be headed by a retired judge of the high court and the state government should provide appropriate staff to the commission. The commission would determine the perpetrators of violence and the amount of compensation, which should not be more than double the total loss suffered by the victim. The bench also permitted the commission to engage the services of some assessors to estimate the losses, if required.

The commission would work under the supervision of the HC and can approach court at any point of time for any assistance.

The death of Sant Ramanand in Austria on May 24, 2009 had triggered large scale violence in Jalandhar, Phaghwara, Hoshiarpur and some other towns of Punjab.

Importantly, it was only after cognizance of the matter was taken by the high court, the state police swung into action and started registering cases.

The matter had reached the HC in December 2010 through a PIL by Phagwara branch of General Samaj Manch through their counsel, Hitesh Kaplish. Advocate Kaplish had sought directions for fixing responsibility of each and every official concerned in the administration for failure to anticipate such violence and punish the culprits.

Punjab police had to face the wrath of the high court for not taking any tangible action against those involved in the violence and even the state home secretary as well as DGP had also been summoned in person by the high court for their failure to take action in the matter. Following HC intervention, 75 cases were registered, 57 persons were arrested, around 445 witnesses identified and statements of around 258 persons recorded.

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