Delhi lieutenant governor Tejendra Khanna's decision to commute the life sentence of Kishori Lal - convicted for the murder of eight Sikhs during the 1984 riots - on the grounds of his 'good conduct' has evoked a sense of shock and outrage from survivors and families of the deceased.
Three days after HT reported about the decision on Sunday, the Delhi lieutenant governor's office put the order on hold, on Wednesday.
"Commuting the sentence of Kishori Lal is the murder of justice, since he had been served seven death penalties by the courts. We are going to file a petition in the Delhi high court against the commutation order this week," said Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad, chief of All India Sikh Student Federation (AISSF).
"On February 16, AISSF will hold a justice rally at the Karkardooma court," he added.
Senior advocate KS Phoolka, who has been waging legal battles for the 1984 riot victims, told HT, "I am shocked and outraged at the commutation. How could the government commute his sentence, even though Kishori was convicted for eight murders in separate cases."
The butcher of Trilokpuri, as Lal is known, was picked on the grounds of his good conduct by the jail authorities, who then approached the sentence review board (SRB).
The SRB recommended that he be released from jail and given a chance 'to reform himself'.
The SRB is headed by the chief minister of Delhi and comprises representatives of police commissioner, the district sessions judge, chief probation officer and director general of prisons (Tihar).
The state government's decision has also angered and shocked families of those killed or maimed by the riotous mob led by Lal for three days in Trilokpuri.
"Sikhs will never get justice here. Kishori Lal, and other members of the mob, had killed around 80 Sikhs in Trilokpuri's block 31, 32, and yet the government has let him go via a back-door," said Hari Singh (35), a survivor and an eyewitness of the attack.
Mansa Singh, whose three sons - Nirmal (18), Amar (22) and Darshan (24) - and brother Kirpal were killed by Lal, had moved out of Trilokpuri after the riots. His current address is unknown to his former neighbours in block 32.
Singh had sold his double-storeyed house number 7 for peanuts, according to his former neighbour Harminder Singh (73), who was also a witness to the riots.
Reacting to the order, Harminder said, "Almost 3,000 Sikhs were butchered in the riots - 1,000 in Trilokpuri alone in 1984. No culprit was ever hanged, even though Indira's killers were hanged quickly. First they commuted Kishori's death term into life term and now this. It is sheer injustice."
Justifying the commutation, a prison source told HT, "Lal's sentence was commuted to give him a chance to reform himself and he was chosen because of his record of good behaviour inside prison."
"At 48 years of age, Kishori Lal stands a good chance to start anew in life," he added.