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Supreme Court:  The bench of SA Bobde and SA Nazeer, JJ has asked the CBI to apprise it of the status of the ongoing trial in a case involving former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in connection with a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and listed his bail plea for hearing on April 15.

The CBI told the Bench that Sajjan Kumar, who was a sitting MP in 1984, was the “kingpin” of the massacre of Sikhs in the national capital in 1984.

“This is a gruesome offence of massacre of Sikhs. He was the leader and he was the kingpin of this,”

It was also argued that it would be a “travesty of justice” if Sajjan Kumar is enlarged on bail as he is facing trial in another 1984 anti-Sikh riots case at Patiala House district court here.

The bench said that it would hear on April 15 bail plea of Sajjan Kumar, who was convicted and sentenced to life term by the Delhi High Court in connection with a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. The case in which Sajjan Kumar 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 and 2, 1984, and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part-II.

Anti-Sikh riots had broken out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 by her two Sikh bodyguards.

(Source: PTI)

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Supreme Court: Recently elevated Justice Sanjiv Khanna has recused himself from hearing the appeal of former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar challenging the Delhi High Court verdict that sentenced him to life term in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

Ordering that the plea of Sajjan Kumar be listed before an appropriate bench to which Justice Khanna was not part, CJI Ranjan Gogoi, who was hearing the matter with Justice Khanna, said:

“My brother (Justice Sanjiv Khanna) does not want to hear.”

Justice Khanna had dismissed Sajjan Kumar’s bail in the Delhi High Court in 2015 in connection with the case.

The Supreme Court had earlier admitted the appeal of Sajjan Kumar for hearing and had also issued notice to the CBI on his bail plea and had sought its response within four weeks. It had also allowed the former Congress leader to file “lengthy list of dates” and “additional facts and grounds” in favour of his appeal.

Background of the case:

  • The anti-Sikh riots had broken out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 by her two Sikh bodyguards.
  • The case in which Sajjan Kumar 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, 1984 and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part-II.
  • Trial court acquitted Sajjan Kumar in the case in a 2010 verdict.
  • The Delhi High Court had convicted and sentenced Sajjan Kumar to spend the remainder of his life in jail 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.
  • Sajjan Kumar surrendered before a trial court here on December 31, 2018 to serve the sentence in pursuance of the high court’s December 17 judgment awarding him life imprisonment for the “remainder of his natural life”.
(Source: PTI)
Case BriefsHigh Courts

“The mass killings of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in November 1984 were in fact ‘crimes against humanity’. They will continue to shock the collective conscience of society for a long time to come.”

Delhi High Court:A Division Bench comprising of S. Muralidhar and Vinod Goel, JJ. decided Sajjan Kumar’s fate in the infamous 1984 Sikh riots case. On CBI’s appeal, the reversed the acquittal by the trial court of Sajjan Kumar, former Member of Parliament and sentenced him to imprisonment for life. Present appeals were directed against the judgment dated 30-04-2013 passed by the trial court acquitting Sajjan Kumar of the offences of criminal conspiracy and abetment while, at the same time, convicting other 5 accused.

Background

Following the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, on the morning of 31-10-1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, a communal frenzy was unleashed. For the next four days, all over Delhi, 2,733 Sikhs were brutally murdered. Their houses were destroyed. In the rest of the country too thousands of Sikhs were killed. The present appeals arise as a result the investigation by the CBI into the killing of five Sikhs in the Raj Nagar Part 1 area in Palm Colony in South West Delhi on 1-2-November 1984 and the burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part II. Six accused, including Sajjan Kumar, were sent up for trial in 2010. Three years later, the trial court convicted five of the accused for the offences of armed rioting and murder. Sajjan Kumar stood acquitted of all offences. The convicted accused, as well as the CBI, appealed to the High Court.

Charges

Sajjan Kumar was chawed for entering into criminal conspiracy with other accused and being principal offender and abettor in commission of offences including rioting, murder, house trespass, dacoity, promoting enmity between different groups grounds of religion. defiling place of worship, etc.

Witnesses

The accused were brought to justice primarily on account of the courage and perseverance of three eyewitnesses, Jagdish Kaur whose husband, son and three cousins were the five killed; Jagsher Singh, another cousin of Jagdish Kaur; and Nirpreet Kaur who saw the Gurudwara being burnt down and her father being burnt alive by the raging mobs. It is only after the CBI entered the scene, that they were able to be assured and they spoke up.

Failure to register FIR and unsatisfactory investigation

According to the Court, there was an abject failure by the police to investigate the violence which broke out in the aftermath of the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi. There was an utter failure to register separate FIRs with respect to the five deaths that from the subject matter of the present appeals. It was observed, “circumstances establish apathy of Delhi Police and their active connivance in the brutal murders being perpetrated”.

Extraordinary case

In Court’s own words, “This was an extraordinary case where it was going to be impossible to proceed against A-1 in the normal scheme of things because there appeared to be ongoing large-scale efforts to suppress the cases against him by not even recording or registering them. Even if they were registered they were not investigated properly and even the investigations which sawing progress were not carried to logical end of a charge sheet actually being filed.”

Sajjan Kumar’s involvement in conspiracy

The High Court was of the view that the trial court completely omitted to address the charges of conspiracy despite detailed arguments submitted by the CBI. Holding the witness record to be unshakably true, the Court observed, “there was detailed planning and the witnesses have spoken about seeing some of the political leaders walking around with lists in order to identify the houses of Sikhs. Without such careful planning, the scale of violence, destruction, and the loss of lives could not have been brought about.” The Court held Sajjan Kumar’s involvement was proved in light of the evidence that came on record and specially the witness deposition wherein express and categorical terms they testified to have seen Sajjan Kumar instigating the crowd to unleash barbarism on the Sikhs because “inhone humeri maa ko mara hai” (they have killed our mother) He also asked the mob to not spare the Hindus who had given shelter to Sikhs. In such view of the matter, the Court held that Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal by the trial court was not justified.

Judgment

The High Court reversed the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar and convicted him for the offences of criminal conspiracy punishable under Section 120-B read with Sections 302, 436, 295 and 152A (1)(a) and (b) and 109 IPC. Further while affirming the conviction and sentences awarded by the trial court to the other five accused, the Court additionally convicted and sentenced them for the offence of criminal conspiracy. Sajjan Kumar is sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of is life and is directed to surrender on or before 31-12-2018. [State v. Sajjan Kumar,2018 SCC OnLine Del 12930, dated 17-12-2018]