The Delhi Patiala House Court Tuesday awarded death sentence to Yashpal Singh and handed another convict Naresh Sherawat life imprisonment for their role in 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The verdict was pronounced in Tihar Jail due to security concerns. The convicts were previously attacked on the premises of the Delhi court during the hearing of the case on November 15.
This was the first conviction in five of the eight cases that were reopened and investigated by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was constituted in 2015. The investigation into three cases involving Congress leader Sajjan Kumar are still pending.
Singh and Sherawat were convicted on November 15 for killing two Sikh youths in Delhi’s Mahipalpur area after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Pandey held Sherawat and Singh guilty of killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh during the riots, and said that “victims of mass genocide” cannot be left in “the lurch”.
The case was lodged against the duo on the basis of a complaint filed by Santokh Singh, the brother of Hardev Singh. Court records reveal that a mob of 500 people, including the two accused, allegedly burnt shops and looted the area.
After the incident, a case was registered at Mehrauli police station in 1984. Following an investigation, a chargesheet was filed against one of the accused, who was acquitted in 1986.
Later, when the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission was constituted, a “first informant”, Santokh Singh, filed an affidavit stating that 500 people looted shops in Mahipalpur in 1984. Based on his affidavit, another FIR was registered in 1993, and an ACP-rank officer filed an “untrace report” in court. The Metropolitan Magistrate, however, had said, “Police were at liberty to file challan as and when accused persons were arrested.”
In 2017, the chargesheet in the case was filed by a Special Investigation Team, constituted in 2015 to re-investigate “serious criminal cases” filed in Delhi after the anti-Sikh riots, which had been closed.
During arguments in this case, the defence counsel had said that registration of two FIRs for the same incident was illegal. The court said: “This case involves extraordinary circumstances justifying the registration of the second FIR.”
The defence had also pointed out that the witnesses were examined after 33 years and none of the accused persons were named correctly by them. The court, however, said that this was “immaterial” and recounted one instance involving the witness Sangat Singh, whose brother Hardev Singh was murdered.
Justice has finally been meted out: Amarinder Singh
Welcoming the Delhi court verdict, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said justice had finally been meted out to the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. “Welcome the first conviction by a Delhi court in the 1984 riots case. Justice has finally been meted out to the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. Hope the others involved in the attacks are also soon brought to book for their horrendous and inhuman acts,” he tweeted.
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said justice had finally been delivered due to the efforts of the NDA government and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for constituting the SIT. “Today, justice has been delivered to 2 culprits of 1984 Sikh genocide because of the efforts of NDA govt. I thank PM Narendra Modi ji for setting up SIT in 2015 and reopening the case closed by Delhi Police in 1994. We will not rest till the last murderer is brought to justice,” she said.
“They killed! They burnt! They raped! Today they hang!! I thank Waheguru for giving Sikhs a ray of hope in today’s verdict against two culprits of 1984 Sikh genocide and pray for a similar punishment for Sajjan, Tytler and their partners in crimes against Sikhs!!” she tweeted.