Reversing the earlier trial court judgement, the Delhi High Court on Monday convicted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. Kumar was sentenced to life imprisonment by the court for conspiracy to commit murder and has to surrender by December 31, 2018. The court, while delivering the verdict said, truth will prevail and justice will be done. Kumar’s life imprisonment will be for remainder of his life, the court observed.
Sajjan Kumar however, was considering moving the Supreme Court to reverse the verdict on his conviction.
Meanwhile, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday welcomed the court’s judgement on Sajjan Kumar and termed the 1984 anti-Sikh riot case as the worst kind of genocide that we ever saw.
“Judgement of 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 govts in that period repeatedly indulged in coverup exercises,” Jaitley said.
“The coverups 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.
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Reacting on the court's verdict, Union minister Harsimrat Badal said, "I want to thank PM Narendra Modi that on Akali Dal's request in 2015 he set up an SIT to probe 1984 massacre. It's a historic judgement. Wheels of justice have finally moved."
"It is Sajjan Kumar today, it will be Jagdish Tytler tomorrow then Kamal Nath and eventually the Gandhi family, says Harsimrat Badal on 1984 Riots Verdict," she said.
Justice RK Gauba had dismissed their 22-year old appeals against conviction by a trial court and had asked all the convicts to surrender forthwith to undergo the prison term.
The convicts had challenged the August 27, 1996 judgment of a sessions court which had convicted 88 out of the 107 people arrested on November 2, 1984 for rioting, burning houses and curfew violation in Trilokpuri area of East Delhi.
Earlier on November 16, a key prosecution witness in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case had identified Sajjan Kumar before a Delhi court as one who had allegedly instigated the mob to kill Sikhs.
After the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, the next couple of days witnessed widespread rioting and killings of Sikhs in the national capital.
According to the FIR lodged in connection with the Trilokpuri incident, 95 people had died in the rioting and 100 houses were burnt, said senior advocate HS Phoolka, who has been representing the riot victims in various matters.
Of the 88 convicts who moved the high court, several have died during the pendency of their appeals and the case against them has abated, police had earlier said.
Delhi HC's observation on 1984 anti-Sikh riots:
"Truth will prevail and justice will be done."
"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."
"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."
"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?"
"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 and it was literally a free for all situation. Aftershocks of that still being felt."
"Sajjan Kumar shall not from this moment till his surrender leave the NCT of Delhi and shall immediately provide to the CBI the address and mobile number(s) where he can be contacted."
With the direction, the court said it has partially allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation's appeal against Kumar's acquittal by the trial court in a case related to the murder of five members of a Sikh family -- Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh -- in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
In the same case, the high court upheld the convictions and awarded varying sentences to former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.
They were also convicted for criminal conspiracy to burn down residences of Sikh families and a gurdwara in the area during the riots.
The court also directed them to surrender by December 31 and not leave the city before that.
With the direction, the bench dismissed the appeals of the five against their conviction and punishment awarded by the trial court.
The trial court in May 2013, while acquitting Kumar, had awarded life term to Balwan Khokhar, Bhagmal and Lal and a three-year jail term to Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.
Though the high court upheld Balwan Khokhar, Bhagmal and Lal life sentences, it extended the sentences of Yadav and Kishan Khokar to a 10-year jail term.
The high court had on March 29 last year had issued show cause notices to 11 accused, including Yadav, in five other 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases which were earlier closed. The matter is being heard by another division bench.
The accused, who were acquitted of the charges, were asked as to why should the court not order reinvestigation and retrial against them as they faced allegations of "horrifying crimes against humanity".