Life terms for three in 1984 anti-Sikh riots (Third Lead)

New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) A Delhi court Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment three convicts in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case in which Congress leader Sajjan Kumar has been acquitted, despite the prosecution seeking the death penalty. The victim’s kin called the punishment inadequate.

District and Sessions Judge J.R. Aryan sentenced Girdhari Lal, Balwan Khokkar and Captain Bhagmal to life imprisonment for murder and rioting, while two other convicts – former councillor Mahender Yadav and former legislator Kishan Khokkar, both held guilty of rioting – were each given three years’ jail.

A fine of Rs.1,000 each was slapped on all the five convicts.

The court sentencing three convicts to life term said that the offences were grave as the victims of a particular community had been targeted and the acts of the convicts were most gruesome in nature.

The court rejected the plea of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seeking death sentence to Balwan, Lal and Bhagmal, saying their offence does not come under the category of “rarest of rare” warranting capital punishment.

The court in its 10-page order said: “They had no special or personal animosity towards anyone or the deceased individually. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had blindfolded those youths and unfortunately, there was no leadership to bridle the mob frenzy unleashed with all cruelty.”

It also rejected the plea of two other convicts, Mahinder Yadav and Kishan Khokkar who were awarded three-year imprisonment that they be released on probation.

The court’s order further said: “There cannot be two opinions that offences committed in this case were grave where victims of a particular community had been targeted for killing and destroying their properties.

“This court has already taken the facts into consideration that there were 341 killings in the area of police station Delhi Cantonment of this case itself.”

The 29-year-old case relates to the killing five people in Delhi Cantonment area during violence against the Sikhs following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on Oct 31, 1984.

Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh – who were members of the same family – were killed by the 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.

The family members of the riot victims expressed resentment over the punishment, demanding death penalty for the culprits.

“We are disappointed with the judgment as the quantum of punishment is to less for these convicts. We want death penalty for them,” said Jarnail Singh who is fighting for justice for Sikh riot victims.

The court April 30 had acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, who was also an accused in the case, contending that he deserved “benefit of doubt” since one of the victims and key witness Jagdish Kaur did not name him as an accused in her statement recorded by the Justice Ranganath Mishra panel in 1985.

The case against Sajjan Kumar and others was registered in 2005 on a recommendation of the Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission which inquired into the riots. The CBI had filed two charge sheets against Sajjan Kumar and others in January 2010.

Earlier in the day, during the arguments on quantum of sentence, CBI sought death sentence for Balwan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal saying: “They were engaged in planned communal riot and religious cleansing.”

CBI prosecutor R.S. Cheema has submitted that the “victims were totally innocent and they had not instigated anyone. A particular community was targeted, particularly men, their houses were destroyed and burnt and even the identity of the victims destroyed by burning them”.

On April 30 while acquitting Kumar, the other five accused had been held guilty for the offences including murder, rioting and unlawful assembly by the armed rioters.

In another case the court on April 10 had ordered the reopening of a case against another Congress leader, Jagdish Tytler, in the 1984 anti-Sikh 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.

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