File photo of Sajjan Kumar
File photo of Sajjan Kumar

HC convicts Sajjan in 1984 riots case, sentences him to life; BJP targets Cong

ANI | Updated: Dec 17, 2018 20:36 IST

New Delhi [India], Dec 17 (ANI): Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was on Monday convicted in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court, which overturned a lower court judgement and said there appeared to be "large scale efforts to suppress cases" against him.
The bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel asked the 73-year-old former MP to surrender before December 31 and serve the sentence for rest of his life. It also directed him that he should not leave Delhi.
Kumar's lawyer said the verdict will be challenged in the Supreme Court.
The verdict, which termed the "mass killings" of sikhs as a "carnage of unbelievable proportions", was welcomed by the victims and provided ammunition to the BJP to target the Congress.
The High Court, which reversed the 2013 trial court judgment in which Kumar was acquitted, made stinging observations related to investigations into the 34-year-old case and the clout enjoyed by Kumar, once a heavy weight in Delhi politics.
The case pertains to the murder of 5 Sikhs in the Delhi Cantonment area during the large scale violence that followed assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. During four days of violence, about 2,700 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone.
"In the summer of 1947, during partition several people were massacred. Thirty seven years later, Delhi was the witness to a similar tragedy. The accused enjoyed political patronage and escaped trial," 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 said.
The judgement further read that "the mass killings of Sikhs between 1st and 4th November 1984 in Delhi and rest of the country, engineered by political actors with the assistance of the law enforcement agencies, answer the description of crimes against humanity."
It added that what happened in the aftermath of the assassination of Gandhi by her two security guards was a "carnage of unbelievable proportions" in which over 2,700 Sikhs were murdered in Delhi alone.
"Law and order clearly broke down and it was literally a free for all situation. Aftershocks of that still being felt," the court said.
Slamming the way investigation was carried out into the case, the court observed, "Even if they (cases) were registered, they were not investigated properly and investigations which saw any progress were not carried to the logical end of a charge sheet actually being filed. Even defence does not dispute that as far as FIR is concerned, a closure report had been prepared."
The judgment was pronounced on an appeal challenging the Congress leader's acquittal.
On October 29, the Delhi High Court had reserved the order in the case after the culmination of arguments.
"Remedies have not been exhausted. We respect the judgment but our right is to move to the Supreme Court as the first appeal as a matter of right or otherwise also," Kumar's counsel Anil Kumar Sharma said.
"We feel that the Honourable Judge has not agreed with our point. Therefore, in order to put forth our point we will move to the next forum," Sharma told reporters here.
He added that the case against Kumar was one of "no evidence."
"According to us, this case was a case of no evidence because Kumar was named in the case in 2000 for the first time whereas prior to that complainant had given an affidavit before Ranganath Mishra Commission where our name was not featured and no role was assigned to us. Abruptly in 2000, our name comes. Other evidence came after 26 years and third after 28 years. We find it a good cause of appeal," he added.
Earlier in 2013, the Karkardooma trial court had acquitted Kumar and convicted five others in the case. The appeal in High Court was filed by those convicted in the case, investigative agency CBI and the family of victims.
The trial court had awarded life imprisonment to former Congress councilor Balram Khokhar, retired naval officer Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal. A three- year jail term was awarded to Kishan Khokhar and former MLA Mahender Yadav.
"We are very thankful to the Indian judiciary," said H S Phoolka, a petitioner in the case, while commenting on the High Court judgement.
The victims also hailed the verdict.
"We are happy with this verdict. Other convicts must also be brought to justice. Life imprisonment to Sajjan Kumar has given us a hope of justice now," said victim Dara Singh
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley used the judgement to attack the Congress and the Gandhi family and said a "closure" in the case will come only after other accused Kamal Nath, now Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, and Jagdish Tytler are also convicted.
"The 1984 injustice hangs around the neck of both of the Congress party and the Gandhi family which ensured that no justice is done to the victims of 1984. Instead of ensuring punishment to the guilty and justice to the victims, the Congress government repeatedly indulged in a cover-up exercise," he told media persons here.
"The injustice of 1984 needs a closure. It is only after these key Congress leaders who had perpetrated the injustice including Kamal Nath and Jagdish Tytler are convicted," he said.
"For many of us who are witnesses to what happened in Delhi in 1984, it was perhaps the worst kind of genocide. Finally, the cover-ups are being defeated and the judgment of Delhi High Court is an extremely welcome development," the senior BJP leader added.
Jaitley further said: "The first part of the cover-up exercise was that the truth shouldn't come out at all. So when civil liberties organisations came out with a whole report on 1984 riots, the report was banned by the Congress government in 1984-85."
"Thereafter, the sitting judge of the Supreme Court was appointed and surprisingly the commission led by him didn't blame the Congress government. The judge concerned in the case was made the member of the Rajya Sabha after retirement," he added.
Congress leader and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, while refuting allegations against the Congress party, said, "Sajjan Kumar wasn't given any ticket by our party and he doesn't hold any office."
Congress leader and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh welcomed the conviction of his party colleague Kumar.
"The reversal, by the High Court, of the earlier acquittal of Sajjan by a trial court had once again proved that the judiciary in India continues to stand tall as a pillar of the nation's democratic system," he said.
He, however, said neither the Congress party nor the Gandhi family had any role to play in the rioting.
"These leaders, who included Sajjan Kumar, did not have any official party sanction and deserved to be punished for their horrendous crime", the Chief Minister said. (ANI)