New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) A Delhi court Tuesday acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. As noisy protests broke out outside the court complex, an angry man hurled a shoe at the judge inside the courtroom soon after the judgment was pronounced.
Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal came almost three decades after an estimated 3,000 Sikhs were killed in three days of riots in India’s capital and elsewhere.
District Judge J.R. Aryan convicted the other five accused in the case, related to the killing of five people in the Delhi Cantonment area during violence against Sikhs following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on Oct 31, 1984.
The Congress leader’s acquittal led to sharp reactions from both the victims’ families and also political leaders. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj demanded a Supreme Court monitored SIT to probe the anti-Sikh riots cases.
Sajjan Kumar, the man in the eye of the storm, refused to comment on the judgment.
The order led to a furor amongst members of the Sikh community camped outside the court complex since early morning. Slogans like “shame shame” against the Congress were heard and some people tried to climb over barricades and storm the court complex.
Angry with the order, the All India Sikh Federation president Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad flung a shoe at the judge.
He was arrested and booked under sections 186 (obstructing public servant from discharging duties) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code.
The court acquitted Sajjan Kumar but convicted five other accused for rioting, being armed with deadly weapons and murder.
The Congress leader was being tried along with Balwan Khokkar, Mahender Yadav, Girdhari Lal, Kishan Khokkar and Captain Bhagmal for allegedly conspiring and inciting a mob against the Sikh community.
Kishan Khokkar, and Mahender Yadav were charged under section 147 (rioting) and section 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), while Balwan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal were charged under sections 147, 148, and 302 (murder).
The case against Sajjan Kumar was registered in 2005 on a recommendation of the Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission which inquired into the riots.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed two charge-sheets against Sajjan Kumar and others in January 2010.
The case deals with the death of five Sikhs – Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh – who were members of the same family and were killed by a mob in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar area.
Kehar and Gurpreet were the husband and son respectively of complainant and eye-witness Jagdish Kaur. Raghuvender, Narender and Kuldeep were her brothers.
Reacting to the order, the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj said: “.. The Gujarat riots are being probed by a Supreme Court monitored SIT (special investigation team). Why can’t a similar SIT probe anti-Sikh riot related cases as well. Why are the two riot cases being handled differently?”
Shiromani Akali Dal chief and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal alleged that “a glimmer of hope for justice 29 years after the biggest massacre of the century have been dashed due to open complicity of Delhi Police, CBI and their mentor, the Congress Party”.
As scores protested outside the court complex, rukus ensued inside the courtroom too when the victims’ family refused to vacate the room.
“I would not leave this court till the prime accused Sajjan Kumar is convicted for murder. He should get death penalty. Hang him, otherwise I will die here,” Jagdish Kaur shouted.
Said another woman protester, crying openly: “We waited for 29 years in vain. Our hopes have been shattered.”
“We thought like Tytler, the court will take a serious view against Sajjan Kumar,” said another woman.
On April 10, a Delhi court ordered the reopening of a case against another Congress leader, Jagdish Tytler, in the 1984 riots.
Tytler is accused of instigating a mob that led to the murder of three men who had taken shelter at the Pul Bangash Gurdwara in north Delhi on Nov 1, 1984.