Delhi High Court reversed the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in relation to his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, sentencing the Congress MP to life imprisonment.

Anti-Sikh Riots: Sajjan Kumar Moves SC Challenging Life Sentence

Video Editor: Vishal Kumar

Former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar on Saturday, 23 December, moved the Supreme Court challenging the life imprisonment awarded to him by the Delhi High Court in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

Senior advocate HS Phoolka, who is representing the victims of the riots cases, said it has been conveyed by the the apex court registry that Kumar has filed an appeal against the high court's judgment. He said the victims had already filed a caveat to pre-empt any ex parte hearing in favour of Kumar.

Delhi HC Convicts Kumar

The Delhi High Court, on Monday, 17 December 2018, reversed the acquittal of Kumar for his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The court has asked Kumar to surrender by 31 December. The HC also extended the terms of other two convicts – former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar – from three years to 10 years.

Besides Kumar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former Congress Councillor Balwan Khokhar have also been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The judgment was delivered by a division bench comprising Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel.

Advocate HS Phoolka, who was appearing against Kumar, thanked Justice Goel outside the court.

He had earlier said that he was hopeful about the verdict as the arguments had gone well in the court. He had also said the Congress leader was acquitted as people in power till now were only interested in shielding him.

Manjinder Singh Sirsa of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) said, “We thank the court for giving us justice. Our fight will continue till Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler get a death sentence and the Gandhi family is dragged to the court and put in jail.”

What the Delhi High Court Said

Overturning Kumar’s acquittal in 2013, the Delhi High Court held him guilty of the offences of murder, promoting enmity between groups, and defiling public property.

The high court said that the "mass killing" of Sikhs on 1 November and 4 November 1984 had been engineered by political actors with the assistance of law enforcement agencies.

“A majority of the perpetrators of these horrific mass crimes, enjoyed political patronage and were aided by an indifferent law enforcement agency,” the Delhi High Court said while reading the judgment.

“The mass killings of Sikhs between 1st and 4th November 1984 in Delhi and the rest of the country, engineered by political actors with the assistance of the law enforcement agencies, answer the description of ‘crimes against humanity.’”
Delhi High Court

“Sajjan Kumar shall not from this moment till his surrender leave the NCT of Delhi and shall immediately provide to the CBI the address and mobile number(s) where he can be contacted,” the court said.

Bar and Bench reported that Kumar has been charged with offences under Section 120B read with Sections 147,148, 302, 395, 427,436, 449, 153A, 295, 505 Indian Penal Code,1860 (IPC), and Section 109 read with Sections 147, 148, 302, 395, 427, 436, 449, 153A, 295, 505 IPC. He was also charged for offence punishable under section 153A.

On 29 October, the high court had concluded hearing arguments on the appeals filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), riot victims and the convicts.

What Congress Leaders Said

Congress leaders on Monday said Kumar’s conviction should not be politicised and the law should take its own course, reported news agency PTI.

Congress Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “It should not be linked to the political atmosphere prevailing in the country. The law should take its course, there are appeals."

There have been verdicts in the past where people have been found guilty, while others have been absolved, he told reporters.

“This should not be politicised and political benefit should not be derived from this.”
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress Spokesperson

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said that Kumar does not hold a position of power in the party and was not given a ticket to fight the state Assembly elections.

“Yes, the conviction is correct but those behind Gujarat rioting should also be convicted. Sajjan Kumar was not given a ticket, he doesn’t hold an office. Whereas, those accused in rioting in Gujarat were given positions in the state.” 
Kapil Sibal

"Don't give it a political colour as it is a court decision," he told reporters.

When asked about covering up Kumar's role in the riots, Sibal said that what was happening in the Sohrabuddin case was also a cover-up, seemingly referring to the death of Justice BH Loya.

Sibal also brought up the issue of 2002 riots in Gujarat and alleged that a number of BJP leaders were named in the cases. "Charity should begin at home," he said.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad refused to comment when asked about his response.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is undergoing a kidney stone removal, has welcomed the Delhi High Court’s judgment saying justice has finally been delivered to the victims of one of the worst instances of communal violence in independent India.

His office, however, clarified his stand that neither the Congress party nor the Gandhi family had any role to play in the rioting, and lashed out at the Badals for continuing to drag their names into the case at the behest of their political masters, the BJP.

2013 Acquittal By Trial Court

In 2013, a trial court had acquitted Kumar in the case related to the murders of five members of a family in Delhi’s Raj Nagar during the anti-Sikh riots.

However, Khokhar, Bhagmal and Lal had been awarded life term in the case. Two others – former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar – had been given three-year jail terms.

The convicts had challenged their conviction and sentencing by the trial court in May 2013.

The CBI had also filed an appeal, alleging that the accused were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing.” The agency and riot victims had also appealed against Kumar’s acquittal.

The Delhi High Court had on 29 March 2017 issued show cause notices to the 11 accused, including Khokhar and Yadav, in five 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases, which were earlier closed. The matter is being heard by another division bench.

(With inputs from CNN News18, ANI, PTI and Bar and Bench)