The Delhi High Court on Monday convicted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The High Court, reversing the acquittal by the trial court in 2013, sentenced Kumar to imprisonment for the remainder of his life.
Sajjan Kumar was accused of conspiracy to commit murder during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had challenged the trial court’s order acquitting him.
The Delhi High Court held Kumar guilty of criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity in the case of the murder of five members of a family in Delhi Cantonment.
A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel directed him not leave Delhi and asked him surrender by 31 December. It also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on him.
His lawyers later said that they would appeal against the order after going through the judgment.
How The 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots Unfolded
Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards at her official residence in New Delhi on the morning of 31 October 1984.
This was said to be an act of revenge after her government ordered the Indian Army to flush out militants seeking a separate “Khalistan” from the premises of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab.
The action called Operation Bluestar was carried out in early June. It led to the killing of the militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed supporters. But the Army action also led to damage to the Sikh religion shrine, inflaming communal passions across the country.
The assassination sparked off widespread violence against Sikh in many parts of the country. National capital Delhi was the worst hit and many Congress leaders were accused of inciting mobs across the city.
Sajjan Kumar, a former member of Lok Sabha from Outer Delhi, was one of them.
The 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots Trial
The case involving Sajjan Kumar pertained to the killing of five members of a family in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on 1 November 1984. Jagdish Kaur, whose husband and son were among the five killed, was a complainant in the case.
In April 2013, the trial court had acquitted Sajjan Kumar, giving him the benefit of doubt since he had not been named in the original complaint.
It had, however, held five other accused guilty of the crime and sentenced them to varying terms in jail. These included former MLA Mahinder Yadav, former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, and retired Indian Navy officer Captain Bhagmal.
The CBI and victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots filed appeals against Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal in the Delhi High Court. The five convicted by the trial court had also filed separate appeals challenging the order.
The court clubbed these appeals and heard them together. The HC bench reserved its order in October this year.
On Monday, the court set aside Kumar’s acquittal, sentencing him to imprisonment for life, and upheld the conviction of the five others by the trial court.
HS Phoolka, senior counsel, appeared on behalf of the 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims. He had argued that Sajjan Kumar had always been in a position of influence and had been beyond the reach of the law since the riots took place.