Delhi High Court raises questions on trial process in a 1984 riots case

The bench then observed that at many places, witnesses did not turn up because of fear. How could the accused’s guilt be then established, it asked. There could be the complicity of police and the accused. Despite scores of people being killed, no bodies were recovered, it said.

Written by Manish Raj | New Delhi | Published:July 28, 2017 4:25 am
delhi high court, 1984 anti-sikh riots, Mahender Singh Yadav, nanavati commission,   Delhi High Court (File)

The counsel of ex-MLA Mahender Singh Yadav, who was convicted in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case but acquitted in 1986, was asked searching questions by the Delhi High Court regarding the trial process.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra — which was hearing an appeal by Yadav against his sentence of three years by a trial court in April 2013 — wanted to know if the riot accused was acquitted through a fair trial in 1986, and if the court that acquitted him was competent enough?

While acquitting Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, a trial court had, in 2013, awarded life sentence to Captain Bhagmal, Balwan Khokhar and Girdhari Lal besides awarding three-year jail term to Yadav and Kishan Khokhar. “We are examining the question whether there was a trial?” observed the bench. “Show how there was trial for us to hold there was binding judgment of acquittal,” it said.

After Yadav’s counsel said the court could also seek explanation from the investigating agency, the bench asked: “Why do we sit in appeal? We will be happy to find everything was in accordance with the judgment. You tell us. The accused were acquitted within two-three months…”

The bench said it has an open mind, well within the contours of law. “While doing justice to you, we will also ensure justice is done to the other party. We will not allow just to flounder because of the misdemeanour of the police/investigating agency…”

Earlier, the counsel for Yadav submitted various arguments including that he could not be convicted for rioting as a court had, in 1986, acquitted him. If he was acquitted by a competent court of the charges, the government could not reopen the case, the counsel said. The counsel also cited Section 300 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), according to which a person once convicted or acquitted cannot be tried for the same

The counsel also cited Section 300 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), according to which a person once convicted or acquitted cannot be tried for the same offence again. He also said that there was no appeal against the then trial court’s order and the verdict had attained finality.

The counsel also said the Nanavati Commission — was a one-man commission headed by Justice G T Nanavati, a retired Supreme Court judge, appointed in May 2000, to investigate the anti-Sikh riots — had named Sajjan Kumar, and not him. The family of the victims also did not name him as an accused, the counsel said.

The bench then observed that at many places, witnesses did not turn up because of fear. How could the accused’s guilt be then established, it asked. There could be the complicity of police and the accused. Despite scores of people being killed, no bodies were recovered, it said.

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