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Posted at: Dec 17, 2018, 9:03 PM; last updated: Dec 17, 2018, 9:55 PM (IST)

'84 riots: HC blasts Delhi Police for ‘active connivance’ in carnage

New Delhi, December 17

The killing of over 2,700 Sikhs in the national capital during the 1984 riots was a “carnage of unbelievable proportions” and the way the Delhi Police acted at that time established their “apathy” and “active connivance” in the brutal murders, the Delhi High Court Monday said in stringent observations.

The high court, which convicted and sentenced senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life term for “remainder of his natural life” in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, blasted the Delhi Police for its “abject failure” in probing the violence following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

It said that police had “indeed turned a blind eye and blatantly abetted the crimes committed by the rioting mob” and the probe conducted by them in these cases was a farce.

A Bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel noted it was “extraordinary” that despite there being as many as 341 deaths in the Delhi Cantonment area alone over the span of four days beginning November 1, 1984, only 21 FIRs were lodged, of which only 15 pertained to deaths or murders.

“Ultimately, only five bodies were recovered and that too was because of the intervention of Army,” the high court said, adding, it is “trite” that for each incident involving offence of murder, a separate FIR had to be registered.

In its judgement, the Bench said, “What happened in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi was indeed carnage of unbelievable proportions in which over 2,700 Sikhs were murdered in Delhi alone”.

Referring to the case on killing of five Sikhs, the Bench said, “The law and order machinery had clearly broken down and it was literally a free for all situation which persisted”. It said there was no question of clubbing many complaints pertaining to several deaths in one FIR and it was strange that despite the widespread killing and bedlam in the area, no mention of this was found in the daily diary register (DDR) maintained by the police.

“It is clear, therefore, that in those chaotic conditions, the local police force was inadequate for the task at hand,” the Bench said, adding the DDR was completely silent about the commission of any cognizable offence although as many as 30 murders had occurred in Raj Nagar area itself.

“These circumstances establish the apathy of the Delhi Police and their active connivance in the brutal murders being perpetrated,” the Bench said.

The case relates to killing of five Sikhs in Raj Nagar part-I area in Palam Colony in South West Delhi on November 1-2, 1984 and burning down of a Gurdwara in Raj Nagar part II.

The high court said aftershocks of atrocities against the Sikhs were still being felt and the need for proper probe in these cases was also acknowledged by the apex court which had in January this year constituted a special investigating team to investigate as many as 186 cases.

“As pointed out by the trial court, the state machinery came to a complete standstill in those two or three days when the rioting mobs took to the streets and indulged in acts of violence and killings, and setting properties on fire,” it said.

The court noted that the “mayhem, destruction, and murders” that rocked Raj Nagar area ensured exodus of Sikhs and many of the males were either killed or were put in such a fear that they were scared to be seen in long hair and beards.

“There was a two-pronged strategy adopted by the attackers. The first was to liquidate all Sikh males and the other was to destroy their residential houses leaving the women and children utterly destitute. The attack on the Raj Nagar Gurdwara was clearly a part of the communal agenda of the perpetrators,” it said.

The high court directed 73-year-old Kumar and other five convicts to surrender by December 31, 2018, and not to leave Delhi.

Six accused, including Sajjan Kumar, who was a Member of Parliament at that time, were sent for trial in 2010 and three years later, the lower court had convicted five of the accused but acquitted the Congress leader of all the charges.

The high court convicted Sajjan Kumar for 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.

The Bench also upheld the conviction and varying sentences awarded by the trial court to former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar. PTI

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