More than 28 years after Delhi anti-Sikhs riots, a city court on Tuesday acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a related case, triggering widespread anger and outrage, especially in the Sikh community.
Protestors protesting against a Delhi court against the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 Sikh riots case. (ANI)
More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in the riots after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, who was killed by her Sikh bodyguards.
Five of a family were killed in the Delhi Cantonment massacre in which Kumar - a prominent political face of the riots who is accused of inciting murderous mobs -was acquitted.
Although Kumar, dressed in a white shirt and khaki trousers, left the court with a smile and cordoned by cops, he has two more '84 riots cases pending against him - violence in Sultanpuri and Nangloi.
The victims' lawyer said Tuesday's verdict would be challenged in the Delhi high court.
As additional sessions judge JR Aryan acquitted him of murder, dacoity and criminal conspiracy, protests erupted inside and outside the courtroom.
A young Sikh man, Karnail Singh, hurled a shoe at the judge.
The court convicted five other accused.
Ex-councillor Balwan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal were held guilty of murder while Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokkar were convicted for rioting.
The sentence will be pronounced on May 6.
"Hang me if you cannot hang him or shoot me dead right here," said a wailing 75-year-old Jagdish Kaur, the complainant.
She had lost her husband, son and three cousins, and had told the court she saw Kumar leading a mob which killed them.
Kaur, who held on tightly to her chair for a full hour after the judge left, had to be evicted by women cops.
Sikh protesters tried to barge inside the court complex by climbing its gates shouting slogans against Kumar and the Congress party.
"Justice has been denied even after a wait of 28 years. It is a black day for us," said Harinder Singh, kin of a victim.
"The court has taken a hyper-technical view. When the testimonies of the witnesses had been believed for convicting the five accused, then how can the same witness be disbelieved for the sixth accused, Kumar?" said HS Phoolka, the lawyer representing the victims, adding that he would challenge the verdict before the Delhi high court.
Concluding its final arguments, the CBI said it had limited itself to what each of the witnesses had seen at the time of the incident.
"The witnesses had given honest versions of what they all had seen during the riots," it had said.
But the court found merit in Kumar's lawyers' argument that there were material contradictions in statements of the witnesses, including Kaur's, and they had given different versions in the court.
Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh -members of the same family -were killed by a mob in Delhi Cantonment's Raj Nagar area during the riots.
The case against Kumar was registered in 2005 on a recommendation by Justice Nanavati Commission which investigated the massacre.
The CBI had filed two chargesheets against him and the other accused in January 2010.
The Delhi Police had earlier probed the riots case and the investigation was handed over to the CBI in 2005.
The CBI had told the court there was a conspiracy of "terrifying proportion" between Kumar and the police during the riots.
The agency also said the police had kept its "eyes shut" to the widespread violence.