The Delhi High Court on Monday convicted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in connection with the anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, ANI reported. It reversed a lower court’s acquittal from 2013 and sentenced Kumar to life imprisonment. The 73-year-old Kumar must surrender in court by December 31.
A division bench comprising Justices S Muralidhar and IS Mehta held him guilty of murder, promoting enmity between groups, and defiling public property, according to Bar and Bench. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on Kumar and Rs 1 lakh on all other accused.
In May 2013, a trial court had found former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal and former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar guilty of murdering five members of a Sikh family in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar area on November 1, 1984, a day after the assassination. Balwan Khokhar and Bhagmal were given life sentences. Sajjan Kumar was not found guilty then due to lack of corroborative evidence to support the charges framed against him, according to the lower court.
The High Court on Monday sentenced former MLAs Mahendra Yadav and Kishan Khokhar to 10 years’ imprisonment, and affirmed the life sentences of Balwan Khokhar, Bhagmal and Giridhari Lal.
“In the summer of 1947, during Partition, several people were massacred,” the court said, while passing the judgement. “Thirty-seven years later, Delhi was the witness of a similar tragedy. The accused enjoyed political patronage and escaped trial.”
The court said that the mass killings of Sikhs in November 1984 were “crimes against humanity”. “They will continue to shock the collective conscience of society for a long time to come,” the court said. “What happened in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi was carnage of unbelievable proportions in which over 2,700 Sikhs were murdered in Delhi alone... The law and order machinery had clearly broken down and it was literally a free-for-all situation. The aftershocks of those atrocities are still being felt.”
The court said it was an “extraordinary case” and that it was impossible to proceed against Kumar in “the normal scheme of things as there appeared to be” large-scale efforts to suppress cases against him by not recording them. It said even if cases had been registered, investigations had not been taken “to logical end of a charge sheet actually being filed”.
A prosecution witness had in November identified Kumar as the one who allegedly instigated a mob in Delhi to kill Sikhs. She told the court that she had seen Kumar addressing a crowd on November 1, 1984, telling them to kill Sikhs as “they had killed our mother”. Her son and father had been thrown off a roof the next day and they died, she claimed, as she identified Kumar, who was present in the court.
Congress leader Kamal Nath, who is set to take oath as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh on Monday, was also questioned by the Nanavati Commission for his alleged role in the riots. He was absolved of involvement due to lack of evidence.