Delhi High Court on Wednesday set aside the trial court judgement that had acquitted 16 Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) officials in the 1987 Hashimpura mass murder case in which 42 people – all believed to have been from the Muslim community – were killed.

Convicting all the accused, the court sentenced them to life imprisonment.

The court while pronouncing the judgement observed that ‘it was a targeted killing by the armed forces where members of the minority community were killed and the families had to wait 31 years for justice’.

The high court had on September 6 reserved its verdict on the appeals filed by Uttar Pradesh state, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and some private parties including a survivor of the massacre Zulfiqar Nasir.

On March 21, 2015, a trial court here had given the benefit of doubt and acquitted 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel accused of killing 42 people in Meerut, saying lack of evidence has failed to establish their identity.

The killings had allegedly occurred during riots in Meerut city when the victims were picked up from the Hashimpura Mohalla of the city by personnel of the 41st Battalion of the PAC during a search operation.

The alleged perpetrators in this incident were the members of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), as they hoarded around 45 men into their truck, took them to secluded spots – the Upper Ganga canal close to Muradnagar and subsequently the Hindon canal of Makanpur – shot them and threw their bodies into the canals. However, a few lucky ones miraculously managed to survive.

Nineteen people were named as accused and charges were framed against 17 of them for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy, by the court here in 2006. The case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002 following a petition by the families of the massacre victims and survivors.

Of the 17 accused, 16 were acquitted while one died during the trial.

NHRC has intervened in the matter seeking further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut in UP.