Stating that two convicts in an anti-Sikh riots case had “escaped the process of law” since 1984, a Delhi court Tuesday awarded death sentence to one and life imprisonment to another. This is the first death penalty awarded in cases probed by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted in 2015 to re-investigate “serious criminal cases”.
Delivering the sentence on the premises of Tihar Jail where he held court due to security concerns, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Ajay Pandey said the court must “rise” to the demand of society since “unaddressed pain and grievance may bring distrust and disaffection towards the procedure and efficacy of law”. He awarded the death penalty to convict Yashpal and life imprisonment to Naresh Sehrawat who were “participants of an unlawful assembly” which murdered Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in Mahipalpur on October 31, 1984 in the wake of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
A fine of Rs 35 lakh each was imposed on the two convicts and the money will be paid to the families of the victims.
The judge said that incidents like the 1984 riots destroy the “entire fabric of trust” among communities. “The court is of the opinion that the offence as well as the culpability of both the convicts falls within the category of rarest of rare cases. They being influential neighbours of the victims, without any provocation, caused horrendous crime of murder and looting in order to eliminate victims just because of their faith, community or religion. It led to their displacement. Such victims would never be able to forget the tale of their horrors or to rehabilitate themselves in the previous position,” he said.
A case was first registered at the Mehrauli police station in 1984. Following investigation, a chargesheet was filed against an accused who was acquitted in 1986. Later, when the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission was constituted, a “first informant”, Santokh Singh, filed an affidavit stating that 500 people looted Mahipalpur in 1984.
Based on this affidavit, another FIR was registered in 1993, and an ACP-rank officer filed an “untraced report” in court. The Metropolitan Magistrate, however, said, “Police were at liberty to file challan as and when accused persons were arrested.” A chargesheet in the case was filed by the SIT formed in 2015.