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Delhi HC quashes trial court ruling, hands Sajjan Kumar life for 1984 riots

Congressman told to surrender by Dec 31; sentence handed down for involvement in Palam violence following Indira assassination; Delhi cops rapped for failing to record victims' complaints

Aashish Aryan  |  New Delhi 

File photo | Photo: PTI
File photo | Photo: PTI

Slamming for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of communal harmony during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the Delhi High Court on Monday sentenced the Congress leader to life and asked him to surrender before December 31. The court sentenced Kumar for being involved in the violence that took place in Palam area of the capital city the aftermath of assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

In 1984, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was gunned down by two of her Sikh bodyguards, who it is said, were angry at for her sending military to the Golden Temple complex in order to flush out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a separatist rebel.

Following Gandhi's assassination, mobs descended on various areas where Sikhs lived and killed them for extracting revenge. On November 1 and 2, 1984, five Sikhs were killed by one such mob in Palam Colony in South West Delhi. The mob was led by 73-year old Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, who “abetted and instigated” the other people convicted, the court said.

The high court also charged and convicted him for making fiery speeches, including the one where he had asked members of the Jat community to not leave alive any Sikh or non-Sikh who had either protected or given shelter to Sikhs. While rapping the Delhi police for failing to record the complaints of the victims of the riots, the court said that that those responsible for such 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. As these appeals themselves demonstrate, decades pass by before they can be made answerable. This calls for strengthening the legal system,” a two-judge bench led by Justice S Muralidhar said.

Apart from Kumar, the court also sentenced five other members of the mob which had gone on a rampage in Palam Colon, to life.

The high court, in its judgement has also relied upon the findings of Justice G T Nanavati Commission, which found that Sajjan Kumar, along with other five were involved in riots in areas of Palam colony, Tilak Vihar among other areas of the capital city.

The judgment has sparked a volley of exchanges between various political parties. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while terming Kumar, a "symbol" of the anti-Sikh "genocide", said that Congress and its ruling Gandhi family were involved in a "cover-up". Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who was cleared by the Nanavati Commission of any misdoings, said that the issue of the riots was being raked up despite no case, or charge-sheet against him.

First Published: Mon, December 17 2018. 19:52 IST