Supreme Court questions HC for reopening one 1984 riot case after 31 years
A bench headed by acting chief justice of the high court, Gita Mittal, had in March 2017 sought to reopen the trial in five 1984 anti-Sikh riots’ cases in which all the accused were acquitted in 1986. It issued notice to five persons, including Yadav.delhi Updated: Aug 02, 2017 23:47 IST
The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the Delhi High Court’s decision to reopen a 31-year-old case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots against former MLA Mahender Yadav, who was acquitted of the charges.
A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra remarked: “Under what procedure has it been done? On what basis this order has been passed? Rightly or wrongly this man was acquitted in 1986 and none challenged the judgment for more than 30 years.” The court was hearing Yadav’s appeal against the order.
“All of a sudden in some other matter, this order is passed. Under what process of law the high court can unsettle it?” it asked. The court, however, did not stay the order.
Yadav’s counsel senior advocate Sultan Singh expressed apprehension that some coercive action might be taken against his client. “Its a case of Section 302 (murder),” he submitted. “Nothing will happen. Its only a show cause notice,” the bench told him, allaying his fears.
Senior advocate HS Phoolka, representing the riot victims, justified the HC order. He claimed eyewitnesses were not summoned and the trial was closed in three months. The high court had cited Zahira Sheikh’s case in the 2002 Gujarat riots as a precedent.
But the bench was unconvinced. “In that case (Zahira Sheikh’s case) someone had challenged the order. Here no one challenged it…Judges should not involved themselves in such cases,” the court told Phoolka.
A bench headed by acting chief justice of the high court, Gita Mittal, had in March 2017 sought to reopen the trial in five 1984 anti-Sikh riots’ cases in which all the accused were acquitted in 1986. It issued notice to five persons, including Yadav.
Perhaps the matter was decided in a hurry, the HC, which took cognizance of the cases on its own, had observed.
In a related development, the SC was informed that 51 more cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots were closed by a special investigation team (SIT) set up by the Narendra Modi government to reinvestigate them, taking the total number of such cases to 250.
Almost 3,000 people were killed, most of them in Delhi, in the anti-Sikh riots that broke out following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
Senior counsel Arvind Datar, who represented petitioner Gurnad Singh, told the bench that only nine cases were on. He demanded that the trial in these cases should be conducted on a day-to-day basis.
The court, however, adjourned the matter to August 16 after additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta sought time to take instructions in the matter.