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  India   All India  18 Dec 2018  1984 riots: Sajjan Kumar to spend rest of life in jail

1984 riots: Sajjan Kumar to spend rest of life in jail

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Dec 18, 2018, 1:12 am IST
Updated : Dec 18, 2018, 1:12 am IST

Kumar intends to move an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Delhi high court verdict.

Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was convicted of murder and rioting during the clashes that broke out in the wake of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. (Photo: File)
 Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was convicted of murder and rioting during the clashes that broke out in the wake of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. (Photo: File)

New Delhi: Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, 73, was on Monday found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and sentenced to jail “for the remainder of his natural life” by the Delhi high court.

Reversing trial court’s acquittal of Kumar, the high court’s two-judge bench of justices S. Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said that the riots were a “crime against humanity” perpetrated by those who enjoyed “political patronage”.

 

The judges said though it was “undeniable” that it took over three decades to punish the accused in the case, it was important to assure the victims that despite the challenges faced by the court, “truth will prevail.”

“It is important to assure those countless victims waiting patiently that despite the challenges, truth will prevail and justice will be done,” the bench said.

Calling it “an extraordinary case”, the Delhi HC observed that in “normal scheme of things” it would have been impossible to proceed against Kumar “as there appeared to be ongoing large-scale efforts to suppress cases against him by not even recording them.”

 

“Even if they were registered they weren’t investigated properly and investigations which saw any progress weren’t carried to logical end of a charge sheet actually being filed. Even defence doesn’t dispute that as far as FIR is concerned, a closure report had been prepared,” said the HC.

The bench said the accused were brought to justice “primarily on account of the courage and perseverance of three eyewitnesses” — Jagdish Kaur, her cousin Jagsher Singh and Nirpreet Kaur.

Jagdish Kaur’s husband, son and three cousins — Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh — were all killed. Nirpreet Kaur had witnessed the gurdwara being burnt down and her father being burnt alive by the raging mobs. Convicting Kumar for criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity, acts against communal harmony and defiling and destruction of a gurdwara, the high court said Kumar's life imprisonment will be for the remainder of his life and asked him to surrender by December 31. It also asked him not to leave Delhi before that.

 

Kumar intends to move an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Delhi high court verdict.

The bench said that the 1984 riots "answer the description" of crimes against humanity as, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination, there was "mass killing" of Sikhs in Delhi and the rest of the country, "engineered by political actors with the assistance of the law enforcement agencies".

Calling it an "enormous human tragedy" in which 2,733 Sikhs were "brutally murdered" in a "communal frenzy", the court said, "In India, the riots in early November 1984 in which in Delhi alone 2,733 Sikhs and nearly 3,350 all over the country were brutally murdered was neither the first instance of a mass crime nor, tragically, the last."

 

Calling for a different approach to deliver justice in such cases, the court noted that India has been no stranger to mass killings since the time of Partition in 1947 and the common feature of each has been the "targeting of minorities" in attacks "spearheaded by the dominant political actors" and "facilitated by the law enforcement agencies".

"The mass killings in Punjab, Delhi and elsewhere during the country's Partition remains a collective painful memory as is the killings of innocent Sikhs in November 1984. There has been a familiar pattern of mass killings in Mumbai in 1993, in Gujarat in 2002, in Kandhamal, Odisha in 2008, in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2013 to name a few," the court noted.

 

The case against Sajjan Kumar, who was a Member of Parliament at that time, relates to killing of five Sikhs in Raj Nagar part-I area in Palam Colony in South West Delhi on November 1-2, 1984, and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar part II. The Delhi HC upheld the conviction of five other accused - former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal, former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokharin - and directed then to surrender by December 31, 2018.

Kumar and others were sent for trial in 2010 and three years later the lower court convicted five of the accused but acquitted the Congress leader of all charges. It awarded life term to Khokhar, Bhagmal and Lal, and a three-year jail term to Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.  Following the high court verdict, life term of Khokhar, Bhagmal and Lal has been upheld and the sentence of Yadav and Kishan Khokar has been enhanced to 10 years in jail.

 

Speaking to the media after the verdict, Jagdish Kaur said, "He (Sajjan Kumar) should be killed like he killed our families."

She further said that there was a lot of pressure on her when she had come to the court as a witness.

Nirpreet Kaur hailed the verdict and said that it was the first time that a "big fish" had been caught.

Tags: life imprisonment, sajjan kumar, 1984 anti-sikh riots