Victims of mass genocide can’t be left in a lurch, says judge in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case
A Delhi court pronounces death sentence for one and life term to another for killing two people during mob violence in Mahipalpur in the aftermath of the assassination of ex-PM Indira Gandhi.
Victims of ‘mass genocide could not be left in the lurch and that their allegations should also be given a fair hearing, a Delhi court observed on Tuesday while sentencing two convicts in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.
Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Pandey noted that for 33 years the two men had escaped the process of law and said that it is time for the court to rise upon the cry of the victims and the demand of the society. The court awarded death penalty to convict Yashpal Singh for killing two men during the riots — the first capital punishment in the case. Co-convict Naresh Sehrawat was given life term.
Sherawat and Yashpal Singh were accused of killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in Mahipalpur area of south Delhi during the riots that followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.On a complaint by the victim’s brother Santokh Singh, the police lodged a case. But in 1994, the police wanted to close the case citing lack of evidence. The case was reopened by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Judge Pandey said from the testimony of the eyewitnesses, it is clear that Yashpal had come to the spot in the bus on November 1, 1984 and that he was actively involved in the burning of shops of the deceased and the eye witnesses. The court also pointed that there was sufficient material and allegations in the affidavit given by one of the eyewitnesses, Santokh Singh, who is also the complainant.
While sentencing Singh to death, the judge said there is no material before it to consider that convict Yashpal had reformed himself. “He appears to be playing gimmick with the court and victims till date. He appears to be purposely hiding his income and properties,” the court said.
“The court is of the opinion that if he did not repent for last 34 years and his mentality did not reform when he was at large in society for such a long period. He attempted to mislead the court in order to escape his liability, his chances for reformation now are almost negligible,” the judge said in his verdict.
While convicting the duo, the court has said that ‘fair trial should not be fair to only the accused persons. It also said that the accused had never been even arrested till the pronouncement of their conviction on November 14. “The court recalls the feelings of the victims when the eyewitnesses appeared before the court on November 5 and expressed their grief that the convicts were roaming at large,” the judge said.
Stressing on the need for justice in such cases, the judge said such incidents break the trust between communities which, once broken, cannot be restored even after decades. “Incidents of this kind breaks entire fabric of trust and harmony against communities, thereby severely affecting the knitting and assimilation of different religious and social groups. The inter-community trust is broken. Large scale migration takes place. In fact, the 1984 riots led to large scale migration of the people of the Sikh community, severely prejudicing their lives and livelihood in denial of the constitutional guarantees. Decades may be taken to rebuild the trust again,” the court said.
The verdict was pronounced in Tihar Jail after the local police moved a petition in the High Court citing security reasons and possibility of attack on the convicts on the premises of the Delhi court, said a senior police officer.
The local police treaded a cautious path because they did not want to have a situation like 2016 when the then JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was allegedly attacked in the Patiala House Court.
A police officer said the local police had moved a petition on Monday requesting them to not announce the verdict in the court, since they were anticipating a law and order situation.
“We had anticipated that the convicts might be attacked since an untoward incident had happened last week also. The court accepted our petition and ordered that the verdict be pronounced in Tihar Jail. A large crowd had gathered at the court premises before the verdict and had the verdict been announced in the court, there would have been chances of a confrontation,” he said.