New Delhi : Senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s conviction and sentence to life for “remainder of his natural life” by the Delhi High Court on Monday is the third successful prosecution within a month relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases.
The judgement holding Kumar guilty in a case arising out of one of the worst genocides in the country comes 19 days after the High Court on November 28 upheld the conviction of 70 out of the 89 people who were awarded five-year jail term by a trial court in another case during anti-Sikh riots.
Before that a trial court on November 20 had awarded death penalty to convict Yashpal Singh and ordered life imprisonment to another, Naresh Sherawat, for killing of two men during the riots that followed the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards, leaving nearly 3,000 people dead.
The conviction of November 14 and subsequent punishment awarded to the duo has been challenged in the high court.
73-year-old Kumar is possibly the first big politician to be convicted after 34 years of the riots.
His conviction has come with a strong observation by the High Court which said the riots were a “crime against humanity” perpetrated by those who enjoyed “political patronage”.
The case 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.
Six accused, including Kumar, who was a Member of Parliament at that time, were sent for trial in 2010 and three years later, the lower court had convicted five of the accused but acquitted the Congress leader of all the charges.
Before Kumar’s case, the High Court while holding guilty 70 out of the 89 people on November 28 in another anti-Sikh riots case, had observed that it was a “dark chapter” in the history of independent India as the “law and order machinery had broken down”.
Further, it had said: “The police forces, and the civil administration, did not take timely or effective action to prevent the riotous conditions from spiralling out of hand. The criminal law process began, but hesitatingly and belatedly.”
The case pertained to rioting, looting and burning houses in various residential blocks in Trilok Puri between October 31 and November 3 in 1984 after the assassination.
The High Court had dismissed the 22-year-old appeals in the case.
After coming to power, the NDA government had constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2015, to probe the cases of the carnage.
The first verdict in the case probed by the SIT had come with the conviction and sentence of Yashpal Singh (death) and Naresh Sherawat (life), for killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in Mahipalpur area of South Delhi on November 1, 1984.
While that was the first death penalty after the SIT was formed, one Kishori was earlier given the death penalty by a trial court in as many as seven anti-Sikh riots cases.
However, the Delhi High Court confirmed death penalty only in three cases, which were later commuted to life-term by the Supreme Court.
As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the death penalty cannot be executed unless confirmed by the High Court.
The SIT is investigating nearly 60 cases related to the riots, while it has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases.
Of the 650 cases registered in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, 267 were closed as untraced by the Delhi Police. Of these 267 cases, five were later taken up by the CBI. The SIT also scrutinised records of 18 cancelled cases.
The SIT found 60 cases appropriate for further investigation and has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases in the last one-and-a-half years.
Out of the eight cases being investigated, charge sheets have been filed in five, while the status of three cases, in which Kumar is an accused, is ‘pending investigation’.