In a big victory for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the Delhi High Court on Monday convicted accused Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, while describing the mass killings as “crimes against humanity”.
Reversing the acquittal order of the trial court, the Delhi High Court sentenced Kumar to life imprisonment. He has been ordered to surrender by December 31 this year.
The court further ordered that Sajjan Kumar “shall not from this moment till his surrender, leave the NCT of Delhi and immediately provide to the CBI the address and mobile number(s) on which he can be contacted”.
The court while reading out the judgement said the “accused enjoyed political patronage and escaped trial”.
“In the summer of 1947, during partition, several people were massacred. 37 years later Delhi was the witness of a similar tragedy,” the court said.
“It was an extraordinary case where it was going to be impossible to proceed against Sajjan Kumar in normal scheme of things as there appeared to be ongoing large-scale efforts to suppress cases against him by not even recording them,” the court further observed.
The court stated that even if the accused were registered, they were never investigated properly and the probes which saw any progress were not carried to the logical end of a chargesheet actually being filed.
“Even the defence does not dispute that as far as the FIR is concerned, a closure report had been prepared.” it added.
Elaborating on the riots, the court observed, “What happened in the aftermath of the assassination of the then PM was carnage of unbelievable proportions in which over 2,700 Sikhs were murdered in Delhi alone. Law and order clearly broke down. Aftershocks of that is still being felt”.
Meanwhile, the court also extended the life imprisonment of other two convicts from three years to ten years.
Besides Kumar, Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar were also sentenced to life imprisonment. Kishan Khokkar and former legislator Mahender Yadav were sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Following the verdict, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa thanked the court and said that their fight for justice will continue till Sajjan Kumar and another accused Jagdish Tytler get death sentence.
The Bharatiya Janata Party too welcomed the high court verdict and attacked the Congress party over the riots.
“Judgement of the Delhi High Court is an extremely welcome development. For many of us who are witnesses, it was perhaps the worst kind of genocide that we ever saw. Congress governments in that period repeatedly indulged in cover-up exercises,” Union Minister Arun Jaitley said.
“The cover-ups are now being defeated. Sajjan Kumar was a symbol of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The legacy of 1984 anti-Sikh riots hangs around the neck of Congress and Gandhi family,” he added.
Earlier last month, a Delhi court had sentenced to death one of the two convicts found guilty of killing two Sikh men during the 1984 riots, the first capital punishment in the case.
Yashpal Singh was given death penalty whereas, Naresh Sehrawat was awarded life imprisonment for killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in south Delhi’s Mahipalpur during the riots.
The court held both the accused guilty under various sections including 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 395 (dacoity) and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of the IPC.
Yashpal Singh’s capital punishment was a “glimmer of hope” to residents of Tilak Nagar’s Widow Colony, who were waiting for the “bigger fishes such as Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jadgish Tytler” to be brought to book.
Tytler and Kumar are charged with having a role in the riots in the aftermath of prime minister Indira Gandhi. However, both have been denying any role in the riots.
The Delhi High Court on November 28, upheld the conviction of 88 people by a trial court in connection with 1984 anti-Sikh riots in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri area.
The 1984 riots followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. Hundreds of innocent Sikhs were killed, mainly in Delhi.
Among the 89 convicts, some died during their appeals and the case against them has abated, police had earlier said.
Convicting all the 89 for various offences including rioting, the trial court sentenced them to five years in jail.
According to reports, over 3000 people were killed in the riots in and outside Delhi.