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Operation Bluestar: Centre too agrees to compensate Jodhpur detainees

In view of the statements, lawyers appearing for the detainees told the court that they were ready to withdraw the civil suit as both the parties have agreed to compensate the detainees.

punjab Updated: Jul 02, 2018 22:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Operation Bluestar,odhpur detainees,Punjab and Haryana high court
Operation Bluestar was carried out in the first week of June 1984 to tackle separatist militants who had fortified the Golden Temple complex.(HT File)

The Union government on Monday told the Punjab and Haryana high court that it has sanctioned Rs 2.16 crore to compensate 40 men who were illegally detained in a Jodhpur jail after being picked up from Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar in 1984.

The information was given during resumed hearing of a petition filed by the central government challenging an Amritsar court order of last year by which the Centre as well as Punjab were told to compensate these 40 men. The Centre had moved against the trial court order on June 2, while the state government has already issued cheques of 50% of the Rs 4.5 crore relief awarded (Rs 4 lakh per person plus interest) to most of the men.

The district court had ruled that there was no evidence that these 40 men had opened fire at the army during its operation. The lower court had even questioned the role of the army during the operation, observing, “There is no evidence that army made any announcements asking ordinary civilians to leave Golden Temple complex before launching the operation in 1984.”

As the news of the Centre moving the high court against the Amritsar court order broke last month, Shiromani Akali Dal, which is alliance partner in the BJP-led regime at the Centre, was pressing for compensating the detainees.

On Monday, additional solicitor-general Satya Pal Jain, appearing before the bench of justice Ajay Tewari, said that the Centre’s decision in this regard was taken by the ministry of home affairs on June 27 “purely on humanitarian grounds”. The Centre was particularly unhappy over the strictures passed by the trial court against the army and Central Bureau of Investigation.

During the hearing, the Punjab government too told the court that the state has already compensated 38 of 40 detainees and remaining and amount for remaining would be released soon. Last week, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh of the Congress handed over cheques of the state’s share to the detainees.

In view of the statements, lawyers appearing for the detainees told the court that they were ready to withdraw the civil suit as both the parties have agreed to compensate the detainees.

In view of this, the high court bench directed the Centre to release the amount by July 31. Since the civil suit at Amritsar court stands withdrawn in view of statement of lawyers, the high court termed the Centre’s appeal as “infructuous” and disposed of the matter.

Operation Bluestar was carried out in the first week of June 1984 to tackle separatist militants who had fortified the shrine complex. The army managed to kill militants but also suffered heavy casualties, and later faced widespread criticism particularly for civilian deaths and for having used tanks that even left Akal Takht, the temporal seat of Sikhism, damaged. As many as 375 persons were arrested. But all the 375 arrested were later released in three lots between March 1989 and July 1991. Of them, 224 appealed for compensation alleging “wrongful detention and torture”.

But the CBI contested the case and won it in the lower court in 2011. Some died, others did not pursue it any further; and 40 of the detainees went in appeal against the order to the Amritsar sessions court and were awarded Rs 4 lakh each as compensation with 6% interest (from date of filing of the appeal to payment of compensation) in April last year.

The total compensation, including interest, added up to Rs 4.5 crore for the governments. The court had held the state and Centre “jointly and severally liable”, allowing the claimant to pursue payment from any one party, leaving it to the two defendants to decide proportion of their liability.

First Published: Jul 02, 2018 22:44 IST