Ripudaman Singh Malik, one-time prime suspect in the 1985 Air India Kanishka bombing case, has got a jolt from the British Columbia Supreme Court, which ruled that his acquittal was “not a declaration of innocence”.
A Vancouver-based Sikh millionaire, Malik was acquitted in the high-profile trial in 2005 due to lack of evidence against him for his alleged role in the mid-air blowing up of an Air India 747 jumbo jet on June 23, 1985 that killed all 329 people on board.
Justice Ian Josephson, who rejected Malik’s appeal for reimbursement of his legal costs of over $9,200,000 (Rs 49.68 crore) during the Air India bombings trial, noted that the media and public were free to read the judgment and come to their own conclusions and the costs could not be awarded against the Crown in order to “underline” the acquittal.
Ironically, it was Justice Josephson, who had acquitted Malik in 2005. He had then found that the evidence had “fallen markedly short” of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Malik was accused of financing the conspirators involved in the Air India bombings that left 331 people dead in 1985. A mid-air blast brought down Kanishka Flight-182 above the Irish Sea while two baggage handlers died in a separate blast at the Narita Airport in Japan. The bombs used in both the crimes originated from the Vancouver airport. The incidents were blamed on the Sikh separatists as revenge attacks against the Indian government in protest against Operation Bluestar.
Malik had applied for an order that the Crown reimburse his legal costs incurred while defending himself during the Air India trial.
Whereas the Air India victims’ families have welcomed the latest verdict, Malik told this reporter that he had no intention of filing an appeal. Surjit Singh Kalsi, who lost his sister Indira in the explosion, said the latest verdict proved that those who were acquitted were not necessarily innocents.
(The writer is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist)