Sunday, December 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Bhagat acquitted in riots case
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 23 — The former Union Minister, Mr H.K.L. Bhagat, was today acquitted of murder charges in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

This was the last criminal case against Mr Bhagat in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. He had been acquitted of criminal charges in the other case too earlier.

Acquitting Mr Bhagat in the case of murder of Ram Singh in an East Delhi colony, Additional Sessions Judge Manju Goel said the entire prosecution theory was based on the sole testimony of the victim’s wife Darshan Kaur. But her statement was “full of contradictions” and therefore, “could not be relied upon” as evidence.

The court said the testimony of Darshan Kaur was “inconsistent” as regards the “timing and place of death” of her husband and there was no other material to corroborate her evidence.

The former Union Minister was summoned as an accused on the basis of the statement of Darshan Kaur alleging that Mr Bhagat had instigated a mob which had burnt her husband Ram Singh alive in a colony in Trilok Puri, a day after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

Darshan Kaur in her statement had on March 4, 1996, told the court that her husband was dragged out of the house, beaten up mercilessly and burnt alive on the road at the instance of Mr Bhagat and that the police did not act on her complaint as they were hand in glove with the accused.

Darshan Kaur, who had named Mr Bhagat as an accused 11 years after the incident, had earlier told the municipal authorities in 1984 that her 20-year-old husband Ram Singh, an autorickshaw driver, had died in a “jhuggi”.

Mr Bhagat’s counsel, Mr R.K. Bahri, had told the court that his client was “falsely implicated” in the case and there were several “discrepancies” in her statement before the court.”

Though Darshan Kaur had identified Mr Bhagat in the court in 1996 as an accused alleging that he was leading the mob, the judge said it was not difficult to identify a political leader and such an account had to be supported by other witnesses.

Though prosecution had submitted that the police did not act in an “honest manner” while recording her statement and her testimony should be appreciated as evidence, the court said the prosecution had not put any question to the investigating officers why her statement was not properly recorded.

The delay in identification of the accused was not enough to totally discard the testimony of the eyewitness, counsel of Darshan Kaur had contended.

In the final arguments senior advocate H.S. Phoolka contended that “this is one of those cases where the husband was badly beaten up and burnt alive in front of her (witness’) eyes, leaving a deep imprint on the mind, which is unlikely to fade with the passage of time.”

“If the delay in identification of the accused results in totally discarding the testimony of the eyewitness in any case then the accused will abscond and surface again after a gap of number of years to take the benefit,” he said.

“In this case the court had summoned him (Mr Bhagat) on the basis of the deposition of the witness (Darshan Kaur) before it while the police did not take any action against the accused on its own,” he said.

In March 1996 Darshan Kaur was summoned by the court for the first time to give evidence in a 1984 riots case against one Rampal Saroj. During her evidence, she had named Mr Bhagat, upon which the former Union Minister was made a party in the case.

In November 1996, she identified Mr Bhagat in the court, while in another 1984 riots case, Satnami Bai refused to identify Mr Bhagat. Subsequently, he was acquitted in that case.

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