ALMOST 33 YEARS after their arrest from the Golden Temple complex during Operation Blue Star, 40 Sikhs who were detained by the Army and Punjab Police “illegally” have won a long legal battle for compensation. These people, along with others, were kept in custody initially for eight days at a temporary prison here, and later in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, even after discharge order by a local court there.
Calling it a “case of malicious prosecution, illegal detention and maltreatment on the part of authorities/defendants”, Amritsar District Judge Gurbir Singh has ordered the state and Central governments to pay Rs 4 lakh compensation to each of the 40 men. The order was issued on April 12 and has become available now. The order states: “No evidence is there on record that plaintiff had fired towards Army personnel during Operation Blue Star. Inference cannot take the place of proof.”
The order for compensation cover both periods — illegal detention and alleged delay in trial.
Besides the compensation of Rs 4 lakh each, the order says, “…The plaintiff is held entitled to interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing the suit till today. The plaintiff is further held entitled to future interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the date of decision till actual realisation of the decretal amount.”
The judgment notes that all the petitioners were arrested from the Golden Temple on June 6, 1984, and were kept in illegal custody by the Army and police until June 14 – in a temporary jail made at Kendriya Vidyalaya.
On the violation of their legal rights, the judge observed, “No doubt, at that time, need of the individual was subservient to achieve that purpose, but once an individual was apprehended and taken to military camp, fundamental rights of such individual could not be violated. Armed forces are an integral part of the democratic State and Society. Their role is not merely to defend…against internal and external threats but also to protect and uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms on which democratic societies are based.”
Only registration of FIRs do not prove the complainants “and others were involved in militant activities in and around Sri Harmandir Sahib”, the judge observed. “From the evidence on record, it is proved that initially, plaintiff and others were arrested on 6.6.1984 and were kept in illegal custody…. Army handed over custody of plaintiff and others to Punjab Police on 10/11.6.1984 and it is the case of defendants that proceedings under Section 107/151 of Cr.P.C were initiated against the plaintiff and others.”