The Delhi High Court on Friday asked what the state machinery was doing when five members of a Sikh family were killed in the Cantonment area during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra said the court would not have been hearing these cases if they had been properly dealt with earlier.

“What was the state machinery doing? The incidents happened right next to the Delhi Cantonment,” the judges said. They made the observation while hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s appeal against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal. A trial court acquitted Kumar, who was accused of murdering the five people in Raj Nagar on November 1, 1984.

On July 5, the Supreme Court made similar observations. “It is high time cases like this should be tried and adjudicated at the earliest,” Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had said.

During the hearing on Friday, Kumar’s counsel Amit Sibal said the Justice GT Nanavati Commission had not directed authorities to re-investigate the case. But, CBI counsel DP Singh and senior advocate HS Phoolka, who represented the riot victims, contradicted Sibal and said the Parliament had decided to investigate these cases again.

In May 2013, the trial court sentenced former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired Naval officer Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal to life in prison while former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar got three-year jail terms each.

All of them have challenged their conviction and jail terms. The CBI, on the other hand, has asked the court to increase their sentences. The agency said all of them had engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”.

The High Court will take up the matter again on July 19.