Updated: February 21, 2017 7:44:57 am
WITH AT least 240 of the 293 cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots being closed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the central government, the Supreme Court on Monday indicated that it wanted a “high-level committee” to monitor the probe and trials, observing that “these cases concern the entire country.”
“Why can’t you have a high-level committee? Whatever has happened has happened, but you should now have a high-level committee in place to monitor the investigations and progress of trials in this case,” said a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and Mohan M Shantanagoudar.
“It is an extremely serious matter… these cases concern the entire country. We would take a very serious view of how investigations and trials proceed,” said the bench, turning down a submission by Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand that the government was getting the cases investigated by an Inspector General-rank official as head of the SIT.
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The court remarked that the high-level committee could also ensure that investigations are completed in a time-bound manner and trials are conducted on a day-to-day basis — a submission also made by senior lawyer Arvind Datar. Datar was appearing for S Gurlad Singh Kahlon, a member of the Delhi Gurudwara Management Committee, who has sought various directions to the SIT for speedy justice.
Datar was referring to the latest status report submitted in court through the ASG. Reading out from the report, Anand said the SIT had been making progress in carrying out investigations into cases that the Delhi Police had decided to close as “untraced”.
Set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs in February 2015, the SIT has scrutinised records of 293 of the total 650 cases registered by the police in connection with the anti-Sikh riots. In the remaining cases, chargesheets were filed by the police, and they have been either decided by trial courts or await final decisions.
The 293 cases re-investigated by the SIT included those closed as “untraced” and others which were cancelled on certain technical grounds. Of this, the SIT closed 199 cases right away after examining the material on record.
Fifty-nine cases were found fit for further investigation, out of which 38 cases were closed while chargesheets were filed in four others. However, of the four cases found suitable for trial, two will have to be closed since the accused persons are dead. Seventeen cases are pending investigation in this batch of cases.
Of the remaining 35 cases in which open preliminary enquiries had been registered, investigations have been completed in 28 cases. But the status report has not clarified how many cases were closed out of this batch, and how many chargesheets were to be filed.
Datar said the status report did not specify a deadline for the investigations or trials. “They have merely stated that four chargesheets have been filed, but we would want a direction for a day-to-day trial. Again, they say investigations in some cases are pending, but they don’t give any time frame when they would complete it,” he said.
The ASG submitted that the three-member SIT included an Inspector General-rank IPS officer and a judicial officer, and the total strength of the SIT is 68. “It is being ensured that investigation is carried out expeditiously and thoroughly. No stone is being left unturned to ensure a thorough and comprehensive investigation,” she said.
But the bench seemed inclined to constitute a high-level committee to supervise the functioning of the SIT and deferred the matter for March 6, when Datar would bring on record his response to the MHA’s status report.
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