NEW DELHI: The judge, who faced the wrath of angry protesters with one of whom throwing a shoe at him after he acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar on Tuesday in a case relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, says Kumar was given the “benefit of the doubt.’’
The case against Sajjan Kumar related to the killing of five members of a Sikh family – Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh – in the Raj Nagar area near Delhi Cantonment on Nov 1-2 after the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. Jagdish Kaur was one of the victims and the key witness against Sajjan Kumar in the case.
But in his 129-page judgment, District and Sessions Judge JR Aryan said that since the key witness against Sajjan Kumar had not named him in her affidavit to the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission in 1985, her subsequent testimony is “not acceptable and believable.’’
“It was a matter of fact that when eye witness and complainant Jagdish Kaur had submitted her affidavit before Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission in 1985, she had not mentioned the name of Sajjan Kumar in any manner though the other accused had been named,” the judge said, adding the name of the leader came during subsequent statement.
Considering “all these facts and circumstances, 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 the witness is not believable,’’ the judge said.
“Except a role of conspiracy or abetting, no other act or role has been attributed to Sajjan Kumar by the prosecution. Accordingly, accused Sajjan Kumar deserving to be a benefit of doubt is acquitted of the charge.”
However, since she had named the five others in her 1985 affidavits, the judge said, her fresh testimony against them had credence and they were convicted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code under which they could even be given the death sentence.
The five – former councillor Balwan Khokkar, former MLA Mahender Yadav, Kishan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal – will be sentenced after hearings beginning May 6.
Angry scenes were witnessed on the court premises just after the judge delivered his judgment, as a protester – named Karnail Singh – threw a shoe at the judge. He was overpowered and later released.
After the verdict, angry Sikhs in the national capital marched to the Tilak Nagar police station, throwing traffic in a chaos.
After some protesters jumped on to Metro tracks, two Metro stations at Tilak Nagar and Subhash Nagar were closed. Protesters shouted anti-Sajjjan Kumar slogans, carrying placards reading `Hang the culprits’ and `Justice for the 1984 victims.’
Apart from Delhi, Sikhs held protests in Jammu where they sat on a dharna and blocked the Jammu-Kashmir highway.
H.S. Phoolka, counsel for the victims, called the verdict `very unfortunate.’
Announcing that he will file a petition in the high court, Phoolka said, “The victims and their families are now frustrated. They are not keen on moving an appeal. It is me who is trying to convince them to carry on their fight for justice.’’
An angry Shiromani Akali Dal president and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said Sajjan Kumar has been bailed out by the Congress which used prosecution agencies to weaken the case against him.
In his statement, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said: “Each and every Sikh in Delhi knows that it was Congress leaders like Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler who led the rampaging mobs that massacred thousands of Sikhs in the Capital. However, none of these leaders have been punished even after 28 years of the tragedy. If they are all innocent, then who killed thousands of Sikhs on the streets of Delhi?”
Dr Singh added, “Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal should be a matter of concern for all Indians not just the Sikhs. Justice must prevail in the nation especially when the evidence is overwhelming and when thousands of country’s citizens were murdered and many were left homeless. What message this justice system sends to the future would be perpetrator of this kind of heinous crimes in the nation? India must rise to this challenge while it is trying to move forward to improve its own governance. History will judge its leaders harshly if they do not act to correct the wrongs. “
Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang, an active Sikh leader in California and a founding member of the Punjabi American Heritage Society, said, “Today’s decision is not about one person (Sajjan Kumar), but rather about the justice process of largest democracy of world. If murderers can become elected members of the parliament (temple of democracy) then how ordinary citizens can trust that institution? Where is the conscious of average Indian, why are they putting up with this kind of injustice? 29 years have passed by and still no justice in sight for thousands of victims.”