The Delhi High Court on Monday sentenced Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life imprisonment in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and gave him time till 31 December, 2018 to surrender.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel convicted Kumar for criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and acts against communal harmony and imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on him.
The conviction of five others — former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal, former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar — was also upheld by the high court.
The Delhi High Court extended the jail term of Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar to 10 years, according to The Indian Express.
The court was pronouncing its verdict on the appeals challenging a trial court’s judgement in which Kumar was acquitted.
“It is important to assure the victims that despite the challenges, truth will prevail,” the High Court said, according to NDTV.
While pronouncing the judgment, the high court. according to ANI, observed, “In the summer of 1947, during partition several people were massacred. 37 years later, Delhi was the witness of a similar tragedy. The accused enjoyed political patronage and escaped trial.”
Balwan Khokhar, Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and two others were held guilty in the case relating to the murder of five members of a family in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on 1 November, 1984 after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.
In 2013, the trial court had acquitted Kumar in the case, but awarded life term to Khokhar, Bhagmal and Lal, and a three-year jail term to Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.
The convicts had challenged their conviction and sentencing by the trial court in May 2013.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (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.
After more than 30 years in which the victims and relatives of the violence have protested and moved court, things seem to be taking a turn this year.
In November, a Delhi court awarded death sentence to one person and handed over a life sentence to another for their role in the riots. This was the first conviction in five of the eight cases that were reopened and investigated by an SIT, which was constituted in 2015.
The riots broke out after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on 31 October, 1984.
The ruling on Kumar also comes on a day when Kamal Nath, another senior party leader who has long been alleged to have had a role in the violence, is set to take oath as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.
(With PTI inputs)