By Kushal Jeena
While proving old saying that “justice delayed, justice denied” wrong, the Delhi High Court after 34 long years delivered a landmark verdict on a case that was based on direct evidence, sentencing a senior Congress politician to life for his straight involvement in the killing of people from Sikh community in national capital in 1984 happened after killing of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two body guards who were happened to be Sikhs.
In the outbreak of communal riots that took place after doctors at All India Medical Sciences declared the then Prime Minister Gandhi brought dead, 2,733 people from minority Sikh community were killed at various places in Delhi. Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh body guards after she ordered military seize of Golden Temple in Amritsar, a holy place of Sikhs that was then virtually occupied by the Sikh militants who had waged a war against the Indian state demanding separate nation for Sikhs within the Indian sovereign territory.
The atrocities that prevailed during and after the outbreak of riots against Sikhs have haunted the families of victims of the mass scale killing of Sikhs. The two judge bench of Delhi High Court in its verdict observed the police was utter failure in controlling violence and conducting a free and fair probe into the incidents of killing of innocent people as they were given political patronage by the perpetrators of riots. The Court slammed the police for allowing killers to roam around freely and shielding accused by not registering cases against them.
The Court said Delhi police failed to prepare a site plan, registered few first information reports of the incidents of killings and provided free passage to culprits after committing crimes. All these criminal acts committed on the part of the Delhi police contributed to the killing of as many as 2,733 innocent Sikhs in the national capital. A virtual breakdown of law and order machinery was witnessed in Delhi for few days until the army took out a flag march.
The politicians particularly those belonging to Congress party that was ruling the country and most of the states at that time, played major role in influencing the probe being under way by the police and investigating agencies to go slow and tamper with the evidences. The successive Congress governments didn’t even spared the Central Bureau of Investigation, a premier probe agency that was asked look into the cases of anti-Sikh riots of 1984. As a result the cases were delayed in the lower courts and in some cases the key conspirators including Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, H K L Bhagat nd Kalam Nath were let off by the Courts. All these senior Congress leaders named by the next to the kin and kith of victim families in the petitions presented before the courts.
“A case based on direct evidence rather than circumstantial evidence ideally, should not have taken this long to be resolved had it not been for the powerful names and their influence on the investigation. The CBI’s entry into this scene is a big turnaround in the probe to progressively steer it towards justice,” said justice Murlidhar.
It took as many as 10 committees and commissions for the investigation into the role of some of them to be entrusted in 2005 to the CBI, 21 years after the communal riots took place.
The Delhi High Court awarded life sentence to Sajjan Kumar, a senior Congress leader, who has been a law maker to the lower House of Parliament for a long time from Delhi. Along with Kumar, five other convicts have also been asked to surrender by December 31 and not to leave city of Delhi. The Court said that Kumar would remain behind the bars for remainder of his natural life for involvement in 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The Court maintained the riots were a crime against humanity perpetrated by those who enjoy political patronage.
“Though it was undeniable that it took over three decades to punish the accused in the case, it was important to assure the victims that despite the challenges faced by the Court, truth will prevail and justice will be done,” the Court said in the judgement.
Six accused including Kumar, who was a Member of Parliament at that time, were sent for trial in 2010 and three years later, the lower court had convicted five of the accused but acquitted the Congress leader of all the charges.
A bench of Justices S Murlidhar and Vinod Goel convicted Kumar for offences of criminal conspiracy and abetment in commission of crimes of murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of communal harmony and defiling and destruction of a Gurdwara.
The Court said the accused in the case were brought to justice primarily on account of the courage and perseverance of three eyewitnesses. It also upheld the conviction and varying sentences awarded by the trial court to former Congress councillor Balwan Khokar, retired naval officer captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former legislator Mahendra Yadav and Kishan Khokar. They were also convicted for criminal conspiracy to burn down residences of Sikh families and gurdwara during riots.
After being convicted by High Court, the Congress leader Sajjan Kumar sent in his resignation to his party President Rahul Gandhi resigning from the primary membership of the party. However, his resignation failed to impress his rival parties. Akali Dal accused Congress party of being hypocrite and asked why it patronised Kumar for years.
“We demand the resignation of Congress President Rahul Gandhi because Sajjan Kumar has enjoyed patronage of various Congress governments,” said Manjindar Singh Sirsa, the spokesman for Akali Dalh, a north India based political outfit that is considered to be serving to the interests of Sikh community.
All eyes are now set on Jagdish Tytler, another former Congress law maker who is also a suspect in the three incidents of killing of Sikhs during a riot that broke out in walled city after the killing of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. This was one of three cases that Nanavati Commission had ordered to be reopened for a CBI Probe.
The Akali Dal and Delhi State Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee has meanwhile decided to revive a case against senior Congress leader Kamal Nath, who has now sworn in as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh where Congress wrested power from the BJP that ruled the state for three consecutive terms.
The Akalis and other opposition parties have been accusing Congress leadership of turning a blind eye even after the names of Kumar and Tytler were figured in the incidents killing of innocent Sikhs. The Congress leaders Kumar, Tytler and all others named in the petition have denied of any wrong doing. A Court also awarded death sentence to one accused Yashpal Singh in the similar case. Sikh constitutes a mere two percent of India’s 1.25 billion populations but are considered an affluent class for being rich farmers and engaged in Businesses.