The 1984 anti-sikh riots case against former Congress MP Jagdish Tytler has taken a new twist with the surfacing of a signed affidavit filed in the court by key witness Surinder Singh two days before his death.
Singh said in the affidavit the Congress leader “is innocent”.
“Tytler is innocent and is not guilty of any wrong act in the 1984 Sikh riots, and he was never involved in the same,” said the document filed on July 4, 2009 in the court of additional chief metropolitan magistrate Rakesh Pandit. HT has a copy of the document typed in English, carrying Singh’s signature.
Singh died of a heart attack last July 6. A diabetic, he had been ailing for some time.
“Tytler was not part of [the] mob that attacked the Gurdwara Pul Bangash on November 1 1984,” said Singh. In the affidavit he also expressed his wish to get his statement recorded before the court as he believed he would live only for a few days.
The affidavit is now part of court records and could be considered by the judge while passing judgment in the case.
Investigating agency CBI has all along maintained Singh was an “unreliable” witness owing to his changing statements, as he had earlier said Tytler was involved in the riots.
Legal experts said while Singh’s latest affidavit cannot be considered evidence in Tytler’s favour, it has a “corroborative significance”. This means that generally courts in such situations compare the content of the affidavit by the dead witness with other admissible evidence and statements of other witnesses.
Surinder Singh was the only “eyewitness” listed by the prosecution in the case who was available in India. The other witness Jasbir Singh had refused to come to India and depose in the court citing security.
Referring to his first affidavit before the Nanavati Commission in January 2002 where he alleged Tytler led a mob of nearly 1,000 people and incited them to burn down the gurdwara and kill Sikhs, Singh said he had signed the affidavit without knowing its contents.
“I was made to sign affidavits written in English in the garb of paperwork essential for the compensation for riot victims,” he said, adding he did not know “how to write and read English”.
In the latest affidavit, Singh says its contents were read and explained to him in Punjabi by his counsel Hemant Chaudhri.
“Singh wanted to clear his stand once and for all before his death. He died so the judge could not pronounce an order whether he could record his statement in court or not,” Chaudhri said.