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Sajjan not in earlier complaints,so gets benefit of doubt: Court

Jagdish Kaur,complainant in the case,had lost her husband,son and three cousins in a mob attack following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Updated: April 15, 2014 5:29:09 pm

Acquitting Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case related to the killing of five men,District and Sessions Judge J R Aryan said Kumar was being given the “benefit of doubt” since “none of the complaints mentioned name or presence of Sajjan Kumar in any context” prior to the statement by witness Jagdish Kaur before the Nanavati Commission in 2000.

Jagdish Kaur,complainant in the case,had lost her husband,son and three cousins in a mob attack following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

In the 129-page judgment released on Wednesday,the court accepted the defence argument that Jagdish Kaur’s statement of a neighbour being “reluctant” to give her shelter because Sajjan Kumar had said any Hindu sheltering Sikhs would “also be burnt” was “hearsay” and could not be believed as evidence.

According to the order,Kumar’s name had been mentioned “evasively” on the second page of Jagdish Kaur’s affidavit to the Nanavati Commission in 2000. It accepted the defence plea that the “averment in the affidavit was a kind of manipulation”.

The court also dismissed testimonies of the remaining witnesses Jagsher Singh and Nirpreet Kaur on similar grounds,stating that “absence of name of Sajjan Kumar in any context and then witness Jagsher describing his role for the first time after 23 years when his 161 CrPC statement was recorded somewhere in 2007 is a serious doubt in the veracity of witness concerning accused Sajjan Kumar”.

“…testimony of Jagdish Kaur that she heard and saw Sajjan Kumar addressing a gathering with provocative and instigating utterances is not acceptable and believable and to that extent witness is not believable,” the court said,adding that since the prosecution had only attributed the role of conspiracy and abetment to Sajjan Kumar,he deserved the benefit of doubt.

The order noted the CBI argument that Kumar’s name had been kept out of complaints lodged by the police,that Jagdish Kaur’s statement to police on November 3,1984 was not traceable,and a statement allegedly given in January 1985 was disowned by the witness herself and “appeared to have been doctored to destroy the case and to give a clean chit to the perpetrators of the crime”. But in the three pages where the case against Sajjan Kumar is discussed,this CBI allegation about manipulation by police has not been mentioned or discussed.

The court came down heavily on the Palam Vihar police during the riots which claimed 341 lives in the Delhi Cantonment area alone. Noting that records of the Palam Vihar police station did not mention a single incident,the court said the police “failed to take any action” and maintained its “status as silent spectator.” The court also said the “police appeared to be privy to the incidents of rioting”.

In convicting the others accused in the case,the court took note of the testimonies of witnesses,observing that multiple witnesses,including Jagdish Kaur,Nirpreet Kaur and Jagsher Singh,had seen councillor Balwan Khokhar in the mob that attacked and killed five men. But the court disbelieved the testimony of witnesses regarding the burning of the gurdwara and a truck owned by a Sikh stating that there was “no evidence” of the extent of the damage to gurdwara or whether the truck belonged to a victim.

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