A day after he was sentenced to life imprisonment in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar resigned from the primary membership of the party, citing the ruling of the Delhi High Court.
Directed to surrender by December 31, Sajjan Kumar was found guilty in a case related to the killing of five Sikhs in Raj Nagar Part I in Palam Colony on November 1-2, 1984, and the burning down of a gurdwara in Raj Nagar Part II.
This was the only 1984 riots case against Sajjan Kumar being probed by the CBI before it registered a clutch of cases against him following the finalisation of the Nanavati Commission report in 2005.
On Tuesday, a day after the sentencing, one question was being asked by all who had waited 34 years for justice: With Sajjan Kumar set to spend life behind bars, will the other cases be now pursued?
H S Phoolka, senior lawyer who has been spearheading the fight for justice on behalf of the families of the 1984 riots victims, told The Indian Express that he and his legal team will shortly be taking a view on the handling of the remaining cases against Congress politicians, including the other cases against Sajjan Kumar.
“At this point, we are all praise for the CBI for getting the sentence of life imprisonment against Sajjan Kumar from the High Court. It was our strategy to first concentrate on this (Palam Colony) case where we thought we had the strongest evidence against the former MP. The CBI’s appeal in the Sultanpuri case has been admitted and is technically still pending.”
The CBI’s Sultanpuri case is based on the complaint of Anwar Kaur who alleged that Sajjan Kumar had instigated a mob that had lynched her husband Navin Singh. On December 23, 2002, a district court acquitted Sajjan Kumar and the other accused, stating that the “evidence fails miserably to prove the case against Sajjan Kumar”.
It took five years for the CBI to appeal against this acquittal which was finally admitted in Delhi High Court on March 5, 2007. An examination of High Court proceedings thereafter shows that 29 hearings in the Sultanpuri case have since been held with no tangible results. Several hearings were adjourned on account of Sajjan Kumar’s counsel being hospitalised. During one hearing on January 6, 2010, it was pointed out that the CBI was still not ready with paper books of their revision petition and instructions were given to the agency to now prepare only “compilations”.
During the next and last recorded hearing, held on January 27, 2010, High Court records show the Sultanpuri case was shifted from the category of early hearing to a “regular matter” and has since been listed on the High Court roster only once (February 15, 2010).
When contacted, officials in the High Court Registry said such regular criminal cases were listed on the basis of “seniority.” An official said, “We also take into account whether the accused in the case are already in custody or are on bail.”
Besides this case, there are four other cases against Sajjan Kumar, including another Sultanpuri case in the Patiala House Courts since 2005. Here, it has taken five years for the trial court to frame charges since Sajjan Kumar and other accused had appealed before the Delhi High Court against the trial court’s July 2010 order. Three years later, in July 2013, the High Court dismissed Sajjan Kumar’s plea and ordered him to face trial.
Five years on and the CBI is yet to conclude recording of the statements of the prosecution witnesses on charges of the murder of Surjit Singh. Of the 17 witnesses listed by the CBI, only one, Sheela Kaur, has deposed so far with a second witness slated to depose this December 20. Since November 2015, the trial court has been hearing the case on urgent basis. Of the five accused, two died, so charges against them were closed.
Besides the CBI case, the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was set up in February 2015 on the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs to re-investigate closed cases, has registered two FIRs against Sajjan Kumar. The case is still to take off and the accused have been on bail since December 2016.
The SIT sought cancellation of the bail, but the Delhi High Court confirmed the trial court’s bail order. The SIT appeal is now pending before the Supreme Court.
The two FIRs lodged by the SIT are based on complaints about killings in Janakpuri and Vikaspuri. In Janakpuri, two Sikhs, Sohan Singh and his son-in-law Avtar Singh, were killed on November 1, 1984. The other FIR is about Gurcharan Singh who was set ablaze on November 2, 1984 in the Vikaspuri police station area. According to the complaint, Gurcharan, who sustained severe burns, remained bed-ridden for three decades. He died three years ago.