A Delhi court on Tuesday acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar of all charges in a case related to the killing of five men in Delhi Cantonment during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that broke out after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Five others named as accused with Sajjan Kumar were convicted three for murder and rioting and two for rioting.
The acquittal of Kumar led to protests from families of the victims and one of the protesters hurled a shoe at district judge J R Aryan. The court has not yet released the written judgment nor given details of the reasons for the ruling. The full order is expected to be released over the next few days.
Kumar declined to comment on the order but his advocate Anil Kumar Sharma said they welcomed the ruling. We have been suffering trial for 29 years. Now we have got justice, Sharma said.
Angry families of the victims and complainants said they had been denied justice again. There is a different law for these politicians. Why have they acquitted this man, complainant and key witness Jagdish Kaur said. The families said they will appeal in the High Court against Kumars acquittal. I will definitely appeal. They let the main accused go, Nirpreet Kaur,the second complainant in the case,said.
The court is expected to hear arguments on May 6 regarding the sentence against the five accused who have been held guilty in the case.
Former MLA Mahender Yadav and Krishan Khokhar have been acquitted of all charges except for the offence of rioting. But former councillor Balwan Khokhar,Captain Bhagmal and Girdharilal have been held guilty for the offences of rioting and murder under IPC sections 147 (rioting),148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon) and 302 (murder).
Judge Aryan also acquitted all accused of charges of fostering enmity between communities,wrongful restraint,defiling of place of worship etc that had been framed against them in 2010.
The court ordered the arrest of Balwan Khokkar,Bhagmal and Girdharilal after pronouncement of the verdict while the other two to be convicted were allowed to leave the court as the offence under which they have been held guilty are punishable with less than three years imprisonment.
The case relates to the murder of five men Kehar Singh,Garret Singh,Raghuvender Singh,Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1-2,1984 during attacks on Sikh homes and businesses following the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Complainant Jagdish Kaur is the widow of Kehar Singh and mother of Gurpreet. The other three victims were her cousins and their brother Jagsher Singh is a key witness in the case. The two families lived in the same neighbourhood in Raj Nagar Block II.
Eight persons were initially booked as accused but two died during pendency of the trial. The case had been registered by the CBI in 2005 following the recommendations of the Justice G T Nanavati Commission. This was one of the two cases reopened against Sajjan Kumar after the recommendations of the commission.
Prosecutors for the CBI had argued that the witnesses had seen all the accused present in the area and had also heard Sajjan Kumar exhorting the crowd to kill Sikhs. The two witnesses had identified the accused in court. Jagdish Kaur had also told the court that she had named Sajjan Kumar in her statement before the Ranganath Misra Commission,the Nanavati Commission and the CBI.
During arguments in the case,Sajjan Kumars lawyers said Jagdish Kaur had changed her statement several times,and had not named Kumar prior to her statement recorded by the CBI in 2006. The defence had also argued that the witnesses were interested witnesses whose testimony could not be believed.
The CBI,during the arguments,blamed the Delhi Police for its shoddy investigation in the case,and had said that the manner in which the riots had happened and the investigation had been done hinted at a terrifying conspiracy. Six police personnel also testified as witnesses in favour of the accused in the case.
The order was pronounced by the court amidst heavy security behind closed doors in the presence of only the accused,the complainants in the case and lawyers. The media and families of the riot victims were not allowed to enter the court room till after the order had been pronounced.
Incensed by the order,Karnail Singh,a member of the All India Sikh Student Federation,hurled a shoe towards the judge. Singh was immediately detained by police and placed under arrest. Speaking to the media while being taken to the court police post,Karnail Singh said he had been overcome by emotions and that he did not mean to insult the dignity of the court.