Controversial godman Rampal was whisked away from his ashram in Haryana to an undisclosed destination for "treatment", his supporters claimed hours after he again failed to appear before Punjab and Haryana High Court and sought more time citing ill health.
Hours later, Ashram spokesman Raj Kapoor claimed that 63-year-old Rampal was taken to a hospital at an undisclosed place for medical treatment.
Declining to disclose the name of the hospital or the city, he said, "We were facing problem in treating him as the administration had stopped all supplies, including of medicines, to the ashram."
"We were left with no option but to shift him to a hospital at an undisclosed place."
Rampal did not appear in Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday, the deadline set for his appearance in a contempt case, with his counsel saying he was "unwell" and pleading for more time to present him before the court.
The Haryana government, meanwhile, told the two-judge bench that it is taking steps to comply with the court order but it has to take every step carefully as a number of women and children were present in the godman's Satlok Ashram in Barwala in Hisar district.
The court reserved its verdict till Monday afternoon.
The high court had on Monday last pulled up the Haryana government for failing to produce the godman, against whom a non-bailable warrant was issued recently in a contempt case.
It had set a deadline of today for his production.
Rampal's counsel S K Garg told the bench, comprising Justices M Jeyapaul and Darshan Singh, that the godman was "unwell" and not in a position to travel from Barwala to Chandigarh.
"He is unwell... We are not avoiding court appearance. He has been appearing on past occasions. Give us some time, once he feels better, he will appear," the counsel told the Bench.
On behalf of the state government, home secretary and the DGP appeared before the court. Advocate General Baldev Raj Mahajan told the court that the state was taking steps to comply with the court order.
He pleaded that since a number of women and children were present at the Satlok Ashram in Barwala, where the godman is present, the police and administration had to take every step carefully.
With regard to the issue of cancellation of Rampal's bail in the 2006 murder case, the bench posted the matter for Tuesday asking the defence counsel to file their reply by then.
Senior advocate Anupam Gupta, who is amicus Curiae in the case, told reporters outside the court complex that on behalf of the Haryana government, the AG filed an affidavit, submitting that any immediate attempt to arrest Rampal would result in casualties and therefore, the government and the police are trying to devise ways and means to implement the court's order without any casualty.
Gupta said that he, however, submitted that "not implementing the orders of the court would result in complete disorder, lawlessness and anarchy."
On the affidavit filed by the Haryana DGP S N Vashisht before the court, Gupta said he told the court that the affidavit "withholds a vital and seminal fact, which has been suppressed from the high court..".
Alleging that the entire police force and security deployed around Rampal's ashram was withdrawn suddenly last evening, he said the failure to present Rampal before the court was a "complete abdication of authority by the State."
Gupta added that if the government does not produce the godman before the high court in three days, contempt of court notices should be issued by Friday to Chief Minister M L Khattar, who holds the charge of Home Ministry.
"As per my information received after heavy deployment of police forces yesterday in and around the ashram in Barwala, in the evening yesterday, the entire police force and security bandobast was suddenly withdrawn.
"There was no police force in and around the ashram throughout last night and early morning today. I said this has been suppressed by the state government and DGP, Haryana," he said.
He added that he also submitted that not being able to secure Rampal was "a complete abdication of authority by the State. Why did they not move on in late evening and at night and why they withdrew forces last night?"
Gupta said he also told the court that "it is apparent that the civil and police bureaucracy are not acting on their own and newspaper reports confirm that the entire security arrangement and entire situation is being handled by the police and civil bureaucracy in coordination, consultation with and under the direction of the chief minister of Haryana, who also hold the charge of Home Affairs."
He said he also submitted before the bench that the notice of contempt under Section 12 must go to DGP, Haryana and Home Secretary today itself.
In case the state government, regardless of the consequences of the casualties or the cost, for any reason, fails to secure Rampal and produce him under arrest before the high court in three days, by Friday notice of contempt under Section 12 of the Contempt of Court's Act must also be issued in that event to the chief minister of Haryana, who holds charge of Ministry of Home," Gupta said.
As far as cancellation of bail of Rampal in the 2006 case is concerned, Gupta said the court made it clear that the arguments will be heard on Tuesday.
"If Rampal through his counsel wants to file his reply, he may do so by tomorrow, but it was made clear that even if he does not file any reply, the arguments will be heard and the question of cancellation of bail will be heard and decided tomorrow," Gupta said.