New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday reversed the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and sentenced him to life imprisonment for criminal conspiracy to commit murder.
A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel also convicted Kumar for the offences of abetment, delivering speeches instigating violence against Sikhs and disrupting communal harmony, saying “truth will prevail and justice will be done”.
The court said the life sentence awarded to the Congress leader would be for the “remainder of his life” and directed him to surrender by December 31.
The bench also said Kumar will not leave the city of Delhi from now till December 31.
Sajjan Kumar, 73, was convicted in the killing of five members of a family in Raj Nagar in Delhi on November 1, 1984. He has been asked to surrender by December 31.
At least 3,000 people were killed when mobs led by Congress leaders targeted Sikhs after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Jagdish Kaur watched her son being attacked and burnt alive. Nirpreet Kaur’s father was dragged out and set on fire. Both wept as the verdict was announced.
Former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and two others had been held guilty in the case earlier by the trial court.
While acquitting Sajjan Kumar, the trial court had awarded life term to Khokhar, Bhagmal and Lal, and a three-year jail term to two others – former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.
The convicts had challenged the trial court’s order in May 2013. The CBI had also filed an appeal, alleging they were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”. The agency and the victims had also appealed against the acquittal of Kumar.
Who is Sajjan Kumar?
Sajjan Kumar born on September 23, 1945 in Delhi is a veteran Congress politician active in politics from the late ’70s. He forayed politics through social service and was first elected as councilor of Municipal Corporation Delhi in 1977.
At the age of 35, Kumar was first elected as a Parliamentarian representing Outer Delhi in seventh Lok Sabha in 1980. He was re-elected from the same seat in 1991 and 2004.
The veteran leader has also served as a member in several central committees including Committee on Urban Development and Committee on Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme.
According to Parliament’s website, the 77-year-old leader’s favourite pastimes are Gardening, folk music and meditation and has firm faith in Indian cultural values and traditions. The Jat leader has two daughters and a son.
Sajjan Kumar and 1984 riots: A timeline
After the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, anti-Sikh riots erupted the following day. The massacre continued in some areas for several days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi. According to eyewitnesses, Sajjan Kumar had incited the mobs in the national capital to attack and kill members of the Sikh community.
In 2012, the Central Bureau of Court had accused Kumar of inciting mobs against the Sikhs. The investigating agency also stated that the rioters had the “patronage” of Kumar. The CBI prosecutor had told the court that witnesses heard Sajjan Kumar telling the mob that “not a single Sikh should survive”.
However, in April 2013, Karkardooma district court in Delhi had acquitted Kumar even as it had convicted five others in the case. The trial court had reportedly said that Kumar deserved the “benefit of doubt” as key witness Jagdish Kaur did not name him as an accused in her statement given to a panel.
The CBI had challenged the acquittal and the case was transferred to Delhi’s Patiala High Court. In August 2013, the Delhi High Court accepted an appeal filed by the CBI against Kumar’s previous acquittal by a lower court. The CBI had stated that the trial court “erred in acquitting Sajjan Kumar as he had instigated the mob during the riots”.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court on December 17 and asked him to surrender by December 31.