1984 riots cases not “ordinary”: SC

NEW DELHI, Aug 5: Cases related to 1984 anti-Sikh riots are not “ordinary” and it is “very difficult” to pass order suspending the life term sentence awarded to former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar without hearing the matter, the Supreme Court said on Monday.
The apex court made this observation while hearing a plea by Kumar, who was awarded life term by the Delhi High Court in a 1984 anti-Sikh riot case, seeking suspension of sentence awarded to him.
“We understand that these are not simple criminal cases,” a bench comprising Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai said, adding, “It is not an ordinary case”.
When advocate lawyer Vikas Singh, who was appearing for Kumar, urged the apex court that the plea be heard, the bench said, “We find it very difficult to grant an order which you are seeking without reading or without hearing”.
The bench said the plea would be heard in May next year during the summer vacation by a vacation bench of the top court.
Kumar, 73, who is lodged in jail, had resigned from the Congress after he was convicted and awarded life term by the high court.
The case in which he was convicted and sentenced relates to the killing of five Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar Part I area of Southwest Delhi on November 1-2 in 1984 and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part II.
Anti-Sikh riots had broken out after the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 by her two Sikh bodyguards.
The former Congressman has challenged in the apex court the Delhi High Court’s verdict of December 17 last year that awarded him life imprisonment for the “remainder of his natural life” in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.
The high court had convicted and sentenced Kumar for the 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.
During the hearing on Monday, Singh told the bench that there was no allegation against Kumar that he was part of the attacking mob which committed the offence.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the complainant, said that Kumar was earlier acquitted by the trial court but the high court convicted him on “very cogent reasons”.
When Singh pointed out contradictions in statements of a “star witness” in the case, the bench observed, “She (star witness) may be the prime evidence but not the only evidence. There is corroboration also”.
Singh argued that Kumar was the person who helped in the rehabilitation of victims after the 1984 riots.
He said that court can impose any condition, including that Kumar would remain out of Delhi, while suspending the sentence.
“You may have some point but we would not like to interfere like this and suspend the sentence,” the bench said.
Dave argued that 825 persons were “slaughtered” in the constituency from where Kumar was the member of parliament (MP) in 1984 and from 1984 to 2006, the police did not take any action.
“These are so powerful people that original FIR is missing. The high court has recorded this in its judgement. This was a systematic failure of the entire police system for 22 years,” Dave told the bench. (PTI)
The high court, in its judgement, had upheld the conviction and varying sentences awarded by a trial court to five others — former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and ex-MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.
The high court had set aside the trial court’s 2010 verdict, which had acquitted Kumar in the case.
Kumar had surrendered before a trial court here on December 31, 2018, to serve the sentence in pursuance of the high court’s verdict. (PTI)