Hearing the appeal filed by former councillor Balwan Khokhar against the award of life sentence to him in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, the Delhi High Court said while no witnesses showed up in many places, in others, despite witnesses, there was no corroborating evidence against the accused.
“… Even more worrisome is that (all) accused could not be punished. If accused would be punished, history… as far as as riots are concerned, would be different,” the bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra said.
Khokhar was held guilty along with two others — Captain (retd) Bhagmal and former councillor Girdhari Lal — in connection with the murder of five members of a family in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar area on November 1, 1984.
However, his counsel suggested “irrationality” as a possible reason for naming Khokhar as an accused in the case. “In large number of cases… calamity of this nature befalls on people… they start thinking irrationally… spinning tales about people whom they have memory of (the incident…,” he said.
Earlier, the counsel had said various witnesses in the case had failed to establish Khokhar’s role as an accused. He said a statement made on January 8, 2000, by Jagdish Kaur — the complainant in the case — did not make any reference to Khokhar or his alleged his involvement in the violence.
Kaur had named another person and maintained that she was hiding and did not witness the murders of her husband and son.
The counsel also said another witness, Ramavtar Sharma, was declared hostile and that Kaur’s cousin, Japsher Singh, had not named Khokhar despite maintaining that he saw Kaur’s husband and son being killed. He added that Nirpreet Kaur, whose father Nirmal Singh was killed, had said she heard her father went with Khokhar on a scooter.
The counsel also said she suddenly made a statement to the CBI against Khokhar. The bench then asked whether the counsel was “challenging evidence for her presence”, which the counsel denied.
He said the daughter had frequently changed her statements. The bench then asked what “role did the daughter prescribe to Khokhar?”, to which he said that her father sat on Khokhar’s scooter. “Why did he take him away?” asked the bench, to which the counsel said, “It was for the court to consider”.
He added, “We don’t condone it. (the riots). It is the failure of each citizen, including me.”
The matter has been posted for further hearing on Thursday.