1984 anti-Sikh riots: Delhi court convicts 2 men for two murders
This is the first conviction in five of the eight cases — reopened and investigated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was constituted in 2015 — in which charge sheets were filed. Investigation into the other three cases are still pending.
A Delhi court on Wednesday convicted two men of killing two persons and injuring three others in south Delhi’s Mahipalpur during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
This is the first conviction in five of the eight cases — reopened and investigated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was constituted in 2015 — in which charge sheets were filed. Investigation into the other three cases, which, SIT members said involved Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, are still pending.
After hearing the arguments in the case, additional sessions judge, Ajay Pandey, held retired postmaster Naresh Sherawat and transporter Yashpal Singh – both in their 50s – guilty of rioting and arson besides killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh. He also held them guilty of injuring Surjeet Singh, Sangat Singh and Kuldeep Singh during the riots. Soon after the judgment, the two were arrested and sent to jail.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments on the quantum of sentence on Thursday, where the convicts may get a maximum punishment of death sentence and a minimum punishment of life imprisonment.
“The conviction was done on the basis of the statement of 18 witnesses, who were re-examined by the SIT besides other evidences such as medical examination reports of the victims and photographs pertaining to the crime,” Kumar Gyanesh, additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police (New Delhi) and a member of the SIT, said.
The case was registered in 1993 at Vasant Kunj police station after Hardev’s brother Santok Singh filed an affidavit before the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission — formed to probe the killings.
The city police had closed the case in 1994 for want of evidence. However, the SIT reopened the case in 2016, after investigators, during scrutiny of 293 cases that were earlier declared ‘untraced’ or ‘cancelled’, found clues pertaining to the case. The SIT finally decided to probe 60 cases, of which 52 were closed for want of evidence while eight were reopened.
The SIT told the court that one of the 18 witnesses in the case, Avtar’s brother Ratan Singh — who is settled in Italy — had come to India last month to record his statement. Among the other witnesses are four doctors — three from AIIMS and one from Safdarjung Hospital. Inspector Yogesh of Delhi Police, who had translated Santok’s affidavit written in Punjabi into English, and the then investigating officer, ACP SK Malik of the anti-riot cell, were also part of the witness list.
The SIT members told the court that statements of Kuldeep, Sangat and Surjeet, who had survived the attack, were recorded after their whereabouts were traced. The three identified their neighbours Naresh Sherawat and Yashpal Singh as the accused. They alleged that the two were part of the mob, which had set three grocery shops in Mahipalpur on fire on November 1, 1984.
“The three hid themselves in a first floor room along with Hardev and Avtar. The mob forcibly entered the room, assaulted the five men and threw them down from the first floor. They set the room on fire. Hardev and Avtar succumbed to their injuries, while the other three survived. The survived victims identified Naresh as the one who was carrying a can of kerosene and Yashpal as the one who lit the fire,” the SIT had mentioned in the chargesheet.