‘Carnage of unbelievable proportions’: Delhi High Court convicts Sajjan Kumar for 1984 riots
1984 Anti-Sikh Riots: The Delhi HC called the anti-Sikh riots case of 1984 “communal frenzy” after the then prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards as it sentenced Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life imprisonment in one of the cases.Updated: Dec 17, 2018 16:41 IST
The Delhi High Court on Monday called the anti-Sikh riots case of 1984 “communal frenzy” after the then prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards as it sentenced Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life imprisonment in one of the cases.
As it reversed the trial court’s order acquitting Kumar, the court also directed him to surrender by December 31, 2018, and slapped a fine of Rs 5 lakh on him and Rs 1 lakh on all other accused in the case.
The case relates to the murder of five members of a family during the anti-Sikh riots in the Raj Nagar area in the Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984.
“What happened in the aftermath of the assassination of the then Prime Minister was carnage of unbelievable proportions in which over 2,700 Sikhs were murdered in Delhi alone. The law and order machinery clearly broke down and it was literally a ‘free for all’ situation which persisted. The aftershocks of those atrocities are still being felt,” justice S Muralidhar and justice Vinod Goel said while handing the 203-page judgement.
Also watch | Congress’ Sajjan Kumar convicted in 1984 Sikh riots case, gets life term
The judges also quoted a poem by Amrita Pritam on the violence after the Partition in 1947 in India and Pakistan. She escaped to India with her two children from Pakistan’s Lahore.
“She was moved to pen an “Ode to Waris Shah” in which she spoke of the fertile land of Punjab having “sprouted poisonous weeds far and near” and where “Seeds of hatred have grown high, bloodshed is everywhere/Poisoned breeze in forest turned bamboo flutes into snakes/Their venom has turned the bright and rosy Punjab all blue,” they said.
“The killings would continue in the streets of Delhi. Thirty-seven years later, the country was again witness to another enormous human tragedy. Following the assassination of Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, on the morning of 31st October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, a communal frenzy was unleashed.”
The judges recalled the violence in which thousands of Sikhs were killed, some burnt alive, as their houses were destroyed in Delhi and across the country.
“A majority of the perpetrators of these horrific mass crimes, enjoyed political patronage and were aided by an indifferent law enforcement agency … The criminals escaped prosecution and punishment for over two decades.”
“There was an abject failure by the police to investigate the violence which broke out in the aftermath of the assassination of the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi is apparent from the several circumstances highlighted hereinabove.”
There was an “utter failure” to register separate first report information in the case of five deaths in which Congress leader Kumar and others were sentenced.
“The failure to record any incident whatsoever in the DDR and the lack of mention of PW-1’s statement therein, amongst other circumstances, established the apathy of the Delhi Police and their active connivance in the brutal murders being perpetrated.
Here is what they also said in the summary of their judgement:
1. This was an extraordinary case where it was going to be impossible to proceed against A-1 in the normal scheme of things because there appeared to be ongoing large-scale efforts to suppress the cases against him by not even recording or registering them. Even if they were registered they were not investigated properly and even the investigations which saw any progress were not carried to the logical end of a charge sheet actually being filed. Even the defence does not dispute that as far as FIR No.416/1984 is concerned, a closure report had been prepared and filed but was yet to be considered by the learned MM.
2. The trial Court completely omitted to address the charge of conspiracy despite detailed arguments submitted by the CBI in that regard. There was a two-pronged strategy adopted by the attackers. First was to liquidate all Sikh males and the other was to destroy their Crl.A. 1099/2013 & Connected Matters Page 200 of 203 residential houses leaving the women and children utterly destitute. The attack on the Raj Nagar Gurudwara was clearly a part of the communal agenda of the perpetrators.
3. The mass killings of Sikhs between 1st and 4th November 1984 in Delhi and the rest of the country, engineered by political actors with the assistance of the law enforcement agencies, answer the description of “crimes against humanity”. Cases like the present are to be viewed in the larger context of mass crimes that require a different approach and much can be learnt from similar experiences elsewhere.
4. Common to the instances of mass crimes are the targeting of minorities and the attacks spearheaded by the dominant political actors facilitated by the law enforcement agencies. The criminals responsible for the mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage and managed to evade prosecution and punishment. Bringing such criminals to justice poses a serious challenge to our legal system. Decades pass by before they can be made answerable. This calls for strengthening the legal system. Neither “crimes against humanity‟ nor genocide‟ is part of our domestic law of crime. This loophole needs to be addressed urgently.
5. The acquittal of A-1 by the trial Court is set aside. He is convicted of the offence of criminal conspiracy punishable under Section 120B read with Sections 302, 436, 295, and 153A (1) (a) and (b) IPC; for the offence punishable under Section 109 IPC of abetting the commission of the aforementioned offences; and for the offence of delivering provocative speeches instigating violence against Sikhs Crl.A. 1099/2013 & Connected Matters Page 201 of 203 punishable under Section 153A (1) (a) and (b) IPC.
First Published: Dec 17, 2018 13:29 IST