Sajjan Kumar (File picture)
Sajjan Kumar (File picture)

1984 anti-Sikh riots: Sajjan Kumar sentenced to life imprisonment

ANI | Updated: Dec 17, 2018 19:06 IST

New Delhi [India], Dec 17 (ANI): Overturning a lower court judgement, the Delhi High Court on Monday convicted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The court, which asked the 73-year-old former MP to surrender before December 31, made stinging observations over the investigations and said there “appeared to be ongoing large-scale efforts to suppress cases against him”.
The High Court verdict reversed the 2013 trial court judgment which had acquitted Kumar in the 34-year-old case.
The case relates to the riots that took place in the aftermath of the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
The High Court also slapped a fine of Rs 5 lakh on Kumar, once a heavyweight in Delhi politics.
"In the summer of 1947, during partition, several people were massacred. 37 years later Delhi was the witness of 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 High Court said.
The judgement further read that "the mass killings of Sikhs between 1st and 4th November 1984 in Delhi and the 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 then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was "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.
Citing lackadaisical approach into the investigation, the court observed: "Even if they 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 the 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.
"We welcome the judgement, however, we hoped for a death sentence for Sajjan Kumar," said BJP's Manjinder Singh Sirsa.
The case pertains to the murder of five members of a Sikh family in the Delhi Cantonment area during the 1984 riots.
Earlier in 2013, the Karkardooma trial court had acquitted Kumar and convicted five others in the case. The appeal in the High Court was filed by those convicted in the case, investigative agency CBI and the family of the victims.
The trial court had awarded life imprisonment to former Congress councillor Balram Khokhar, retired naval officer Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal. A three-year jail term was awarded to Kishan Khokhar and former MLA Mahender Yadav.
HS Phoolka, one of the petitioners, while reacting to the judgement underlined on the court's observations that political patronage was provided to anti-Sikh riots convicts.
“Yes, it has been clearly mentioned that there were political benefits provided (to the accused),” said Phoolka.
He was responding to a question about the Delhi High Court judge's political observations about political patronage to the convicts including senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar.
“We are very thankful to the Indian judiciary. Sajjan Kumar has been awarded life imprisonment. Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar have also been sentenced to life imprisonment. Kishan Khokhar and former legislator Mahender Yadav have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment,” added Phoolka while elaborating on the judgement.
The victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots also hailed the verdict.
“It was not a riot but a massacre in broad daylight. My father and brother were killed in front of my eyes. For three days I was somehow hidden in a house. It has been 34 years and we have not got any justice. Sajjan Kumar must be sentenced to death,” said one of the victims who lost his family when a mob attacked his house in Delhi’s Tilak Nagar area during the riots.
Another victim Dara Singh termed the verdict as a ray of hope, saying: “We are happy. Other convicts must also be brought to justice. Life imprisonment to Sajjan Kumar has given us a hope of justice now.”  (ANI)