A Delhi court on Tuesday acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar of all charges in a case related to the killing of five men in a Delhi Cantonment colony during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Five others named as accused with Sajjan Kumar were convicted three of murder and rioting,and two of rioting.
The acquittal of Kumar led to protests from families of the victims and one of the protesters hurled a shoe at district judge J R Aryan.
The court has not yet released the written judgment nor given details of the reasons for the ruling. The full order is expected to be released in the next few days.
Kumar declined to comment on the order but his advocate Anil Kumar Sharma said they welcomed the ruling. We have been suffering trial for 29 years. Now we have got justice, Sharma said.
Angry families of the victims and complainants said they had been denied justice again. There is a different law for these politicians. Why have they acquitted this man, complainant and key witness Jagdish Kaur said.
The families said they will appeal in the High Court against Kumars acquittal. I will definitely appeal. They let the main accused go, Nirpreet Kaur,second complainant in the case,said.
The court is expected to hear arguments on May 6 regarding the sentence against the five who have been convicted.
Former MLA Mahender Yadav and Krishan Khokhar have been acquitted of all charges except for the offence of rioting. But former councillor Balwan Khokhar,Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal have been held guilty for rioting and murder.
Judge Aryan also acquitted all accused of charges of fostering enmity between communities,wrongful restraint,defiling of place of worship etc that had been framed against them in 2010.
The court ordered the arrest of Balwan Khokhar,Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal after the verdict while the other two to be convicted were allowed to leave the court as the offence for which they have been held guilty was punishable with less than three years imprisonment.
The case relates to the murder of five men Kehar Singh,Gurpreet Singh,Raghuvender Singh,Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1-2,1984 during attacks on Sikh homes and businesses following the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Complainant Jagdish Kaur is the widow of Kehar Singh and mother of Gurpreet. The other three victims were her cousins and their brother Jagsher Singh is a key witness in the case. The two families lived in Raj Nagar Block II.
Eight persons were initially booked as accused but two died during pendency of the trial. The case was registered by the CBI in 2005 following the recommendations of the Justice G T Nanavati Commission. This was one of the two cases reopened against Sajjan Kumar after the recommendations of the commission.
Prosecutors for the CBI argued that the witnesses had seen all the accused present in the area and had also heard Sajjan Kumar exhorting a crowd. The two witnesses had identified the accused in court. Jagdish Kaur had also told the court that she had named Sajjan Kumar in her statement before the Ranganath Misra Commission,the Nanavati Commission and the CBI.
During arguments in the case,Sajjan Kumars lawyers said Jagdish Kaur had changed her statement several times,and had not named Kumar prior to her statement recorded by the CBI in 2006. The defence also argued that the witnesses were interested witnesses whose testimony could not be believed.
The CBI,during the arguments,blamed the Delhi Police for its shoddy investigation in the case,and said that the manner in which the riots happened and the investigation done hinted at a terrifying conspiracy. Six police personnel also testified as witnesses in favour of the accused.
After the verdict,H S Phoolka,lawyer for the complainant,said: The court has taken a hyper-technical view. When the testimony of the witnesses has been believed for convicting five accused,then how can the same witnesses be disbelieved for the sixth accused,i.e. Sajjan Kumar.
The order was pronounced by the court amidst heavy security behind closed doors in the presence of only the accused,complainants in the case and lawyers. The media and families of the riot victims were not allowed to enter the court room till after the order.
Angry over the verdict,Karnail Singh,president of the All India Sikh Students Federation,hurled a shoe towards the judge. Singh was immediately detained by police. Speaking to the media while being taken to the court police post,Karnail Singh said he was overcome by emotions and did not mean to insult the dignity of the court.