The Delhi high court critiqued delays in delivering justice in cases such as the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying failure to do so “not only creates wounds which fester but those which incurably infect society”.
Justices Gita Mittal and PS Teji made the observation while dismissing applications of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and two others who sought recusal of justice Teji from a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case on ‘apprehension of bias’.
“That riot happened in 1984 in New Delhi, the capital of India, in which hundreds perished, is not disputed. That, despite passage of 32 years thereafter, cases in the complaints emanating from those riots have not attained finality in adjudication...,” the bench said.
The bench said delay in reaching a finality in the cases “has generated a sense of injustice in the victims as well as those who feel that they have been unjustly accused”.
“Most importantly, it has lent arrogance to the actual perpetrators... It generates a view that serious crime such as mass violence goes undetected and unpunished,” the court said.
“We feel that this may have emboldened several and encouraged other such incidents which have occurred in the country thereafter, leaving black marks on our history,” it added.
Kumar and others had alleged in their applications that justice Teji should not hear the matter as he had heard the case as a trial court judge earlier. Apart from Kumar, former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokkar, who were both handed three-year jail terms, made similar contentions against the judge.
However, the bench dismissed Kumar’s plea saying it was a deliberate attempt to “mislead and prejudice” the case as well as delay the proceedings.
In an unprecedented event, justice Teji recited the oath of office, which he took while assuming office, before dismissing Kumar’s plea.
“Sajjan Kumar stands acquitted and there is definite interest in delaying the appeals of the CBI against his acquittal as well as that of the complainant which are being heard along with the other appeals,” the bench said.
The court was hearing an appeal against the acquittal of Kumar in the riots case, in which the CBI alleged that the trial court had erred in its decision. The investigative agency held that it was Kumar who had instigated the mob during the riots that broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.