The Delhi High Court on Thursday said CBI needs to be heard on whether there should be a retrial and reinvestigation in five 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases where all the accused were acquitted of charges. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra issued notice to the CBI and sought its response in the five matters in which it has already issued show cause notices to the accused and the complainants.
On Thursday, the court was told that the notices were not served on all the accused and the complainants as some of the accused have died or their addresses were incorrect. In the cases where the notices came back unserved, the court directed the Station House Officer of Delhi Cantonment to ensure that they are served at the correct addresses.
The bench had issued notices to 11 accused, including former councillor Balwan Khokhar and ex-MLA Mahender Yadav, on the complaints filed regarding rioting incidents on November 1 and 2, 1984 in Delhi Cantonment area. In the case against Khokhar, serving life sentence after being convicted for murder in another 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, the bench issued a production warrant for ensuring his presence in court on the next date of hearing on May 1.
During the brief hearing, the amicus curiae in one of the five cases said the investigation records in all but one of the cases were weeded out in 2005. He said when the trial court was of the view that murder has been committed but not by the accused in the case, then the records ought to have been preserved for 50 years. The bench observed that hardly any investigation was carried out and there has to be fresh probe.
The high court on March 29, 2017, had issued show cause notices to the accused in five 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases as to why it should not order reinvestigation and retrial against them as they had faced allegations of “horrifying crimes against humanity”. “Treated as individual cases, while the culprits got away scot-free, everybody else, the police, the prosecutors, even the courts, appear to have failed the victims, and, most importantly, the society.
“Perhaps, had these terrible offences in 1984 been punished and the offenders brought to book, the history of crime in this country may have been different. We are of the view that if we fail to take action even now, we would be miserably failing in our constitutional duty as well as in discharging judicial function,” the bench had said in its order.
The high court had issued the directions to “secure ends of justice” after perusing the trial court records regarding the acquittal of accused in five different cases in 1986 relating to killing of Sikhs during the riots which broke out a day after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
The trial court records were placed before the high court by the CBI during the hearing of another 1984 riot case in which the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and punishment awarded to other convicts, including Khokhar, is under challenge by CBI, the riot victims and convicts.
Finding fault with the trial court judgements, the bench headed by Justice Mittal had said prima facie the verdicts acquitting the accused “reflect a very perfunctory and hasty disposal of the cases which has deeply troubled our judicial conscience”.
It had observed that a prima facie consideration of the charge sheet filed before the trial court in 1985 indicated “lip service” to the duty to investigate while the judgements in the five cases reflected no steps or compliance of law and instead showed “haste to scuttle prosecutions and close trials”.
The bench had noted that trial in these cases were concluded within three to four months and the final outcome was acquittal of the accused of all the charges. It had said no effort was made to trace either the bodies or the stolen materials and no statement of eyewitnesses was recorded.