The Delhi High Court on Monday awarded life sentence to Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, overturning the previous verdict of a trial court which had acquitted him.
Sajjan Kumar has been a powerful Congress leader, having played a vital role in various elections in Delhi. He has been now convicted for criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and acts against communal harmony. He has been asked to surrender by December 31 and he cannot leave Delhi.
He was pronounced guilty by the High Court after 34 years of agony suffered by the riot affected Sikh families.
Maintaining that the violence was a “crime against humanity” engineered by politicians with assistance from police, the court set aside the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar, the court convicted him and five others saying the “criminals” had escaped prosecution and punishment for over two decades.
In its verdict, the Delhi High Court’s Bench comprising S. Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said:
“In the summer of 1947, during partition, this country witnessed horrific mass crimes where several lakhs of civilians, including Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, were massacred…37 years later, the country was again witness to another enormous human tragedy. Following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, on October 31, 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards, a communal frenzy was unleashed.”
“For four days between November 1 to November 4, all over Delhi, 2,733 Sikhs were brutally murdered. Their houses were destroyed. In the rest of the country, too, thousands of Sikhs were killed,” the Bench observed in its 203-page order.
“A majority of the perpetrators of these horrific mass crimes enjoyed political patronage and were aided by an indifferent law enforcement agency,” the court said.
The court convicted the Congress leader (Sajjan Kumar) under various counts of Indian Penal Code (IPC) including murder, criminal conspiracy, delivering provocative speeches instigating violence against Sikhs, mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house and injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.
The CBI had filed an appeal challenging the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar and said that the trial court “erred in acquitting Sajjan Kumar as it was he who had instigated the mob during the riots”.
The trial court also awarded life imprisonment to former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal. It also awarded a three-year jail term to former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.
The convicts had challenged their conviction and sentencing by the trial court in May 2013.
The case relates to the murder of five members of a family at Raj Nagar in Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards.
Today’s verdict came as a big setback for the Congress party, which has recently won State assembly elections accusing BJP of being a communal party and claiming itself being the secular party in the country.
Meanwhile, Sajjan Kumar will challenge the order of the Delhi High Court in the Supreme Court, his counsel Anil Kumar Sharma said.
“We respect the judgment but our right is to move to the Supreme Court as the first appeal as a matter of right or otherwise also.
“We feel that the Honourable Judge has not agreed with our point. Therefore, in order to put forth our point we will move to the next forum,” Sharma told reporters in New Delhi.
He further said that the case against Kumar was one of “no evidence.”