The CBI,which called the 1984 anti-Sikh riots a planned communal riot with a motive of religious cleansing,on Thursday asked for death penalty of the three men convicted for the killing of five persons in a Delhi Cantonment colony during the riots. But the court,after noting that the case did not fall under rarest of rare category,handed life imprisonment to former MCD councillor Balwant Khokhar,retired Navy Captain Bhagmal and Girdharilal.
Congress leader Sajjan Kumar,also an accused in the case,had been acquitted of all charges by the court on April 30.
District and Sessions Judge J R Aryan also sentenced two others former MLA Mahender Yadav and Balwants brother Krishan Khokhar to three years imprisonment.
The order was passed after more than an hour of arguments in a closed door hearing. Heavy security was was in place outside the courtroom.
The court noted that though the killings were grave and victims of a particular community had been targeted,the attackers had no special or personal animosity towards anyone or the deceased individually. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had blindfolded those youths and,unfortunately,there was no leadership to bridle the mob frenzy unleashed with all cruelty.
The court also cited a Supreme Court judgment in another 1984 riots case.
The defence asked that Mahender Yadav and Krishan,who had been convicted of rioting,be released on probation due to the lapse of time and short duration of the sentence.
The court,however,declined the plea.
After the sentencing,Jagdish Kaur,complainant and eyewitness in the case,told Newsline that she was disappointed with the judgment. Why did they let these murderers get off with such little punishment? she said.
The CBI is expected to file an appeal against Sajjan Kumars acquittal and against the lighter sentence.
We cannot comment till we have a copy of the judgment, CBI prosecutor D P Singh said.
It was a planned communal riot,in which the victims were isolated. It was religious cleansing,which changed the demography of the area as none of the victims returned to the area after the riots.
R S Cheema,CBI prosecutor
The death penalty was commuted to life term by the Supreme Court even in cases where a member of the rioting mob was clearly identified as having taken a knife and killed someone. Here,these men are accused of nothing except their presence in the mob. Why should they be given death penalty?
Anil Kumar Sharma,Counsel for defence.
Nobody should be allowed to interfere with the secular fabric of our Constitution. If anyone is doing so,they should get maximum punishment
H S Phoolka,Advocate for victims
They killed my family,why should they get away easily? Well appeal against this order.
Jagdish Kaur,Complainant and witness