The Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of four people in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying that delay in registering cases at that time when Sikh families were being targeted by unruly mobs, cannot be a ground to give the accused a clean chit.
A bench of Justice P Sathasivam and Justice MY Eqbal dismissed the appeal filed by four people challenging a Delhi High Court verdict. On August 27, 2008, the High Court had reversed a trial court verdict acquitting the four and had sentenced them to life in prison. All four - Lal Bahadur, Ram Lal, Virender and Surinder - had moved the Supreme Court to restore the trial court verdict.
Before the Supreme Court, the accused contended they should be given benefit of doubt on the grounds there was a delay in registering the FIR and that there were contradictions in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses. In the present case, the accused had burnt one Harjit Kaur's husband and father-in-law to death in Hari Nagar area on November 1, 1984. The accused, part of a violent mob, had run away with the half-burnt bodies of the victims in gunny bags.
Rejecting all contentions, the apex court said the high court had done nothing wrong. The court agreed with the lower court's conclusion that a delay of 27 days in registering the FIR at a time when the city was in turmoil and witnesses were apprehensive in coming forward to depose, was natural.
"So far as the contradictions and inconsistencies in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, as pointed out by the counsel for the appellants, are concerned, we have gone through the entire evidence and found that the evidence of the witnesses cannot be brushed aside merely because of some minor contradictions," the court said.
Also, marginal variation and contradictions in the statement of witnesses cannot be a ground to discard an eye-witness's testimony. Like the high court, the Supreme Court too found the witnesses' statement reliable.