Delhi HC upholds trial court conviction of 89 people in 1984 riots

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday upheld a trial court conviction of 89 people for rioting, burning houses and breaching curfew in Trilokpuri area in east Delhi during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Justice R.K. Gauba, in its 79-page judgement, said: “Thirty-four long years have passed after the crimes were committed and, yet, the victims await justice and closure. Is this what we call a potent and effective criminal
justice system?”

“It is indeed a matter of lament that there has been no meaningful thought spared to date to usher in reforms in the judicial process to effectively deal with cases of communal riots which are engineered, more often than not, by those who have clout or influence.”

“The manner of prosecution of the case at hand would undoubtedly go down in judicial history of this country as an example of criminal law process that must never be emulated. From this perspective, and in the expectation that those at the helm draw lessons from here, one hopes that this case is never forgotten,” said the High Court.

Justice Gauba dismissed appeals of the convicts who had challenged an August 27, 1996 judgement of a sessions court which had convicted the 89 people. The trial court in its 1996 judgement had acquitted five of the total 94 accused who had been put to trial.

The court has dismissed the convicts’ appeal challenging the trial court order.

Convicting all the 89 for various offences including rioting, the trial court had sentenced them to five years in jail.

Among the 89 convicts, some died during their appeals and the case against them has abated, a lawyer said.

The court directed the convicts to forthwith surrender to undergo the punishment awarded against them and directed the trial court to take all necessary measures to ensure execution of the sentences in accordance with law.

The Commissioner of Police and police officers shall render all assistance to the trial court in this duty, the court said.

The 1984 riots followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her bodyguards. Hundreds of innocent Sikhs were killed, mainly in Delhi.

According to police, on November 2 1984, an aggressive crowd had set a number of houses in Trilokpuri on fire.

As many as 107 people were arrested by the police for rioting, burning houses and breaching curfew.

Police has filed chargsheet against 107 accused, but the trial court had framed charges against 94 and discharged the others.

The police in its chargesheet had reported deaths of 95 persons in this incident.

The court observed that prosecutions have covered the cases of only 73 homicidal deaths out of 95 bodies. While 22 bodies had remained unclaimed and unidentified and have not seen any criminal action initiated against anyone to date.

The court directed Delhi’s Commissioner of Police (CP) to re-examine the case of 22 unidentified bodies and take further action as per law.