NEW DELHI: Congress leader Sajjan Kumar has been found guilty and has been sentenced to life in jail for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots by the Delhi High Court, which cancelled an earlier court order acquitting him.
Sajjan Kumar, 73, was convicted in the killing of five members of a family in Raj Nagar in Delhi. He has been asked to surrender by December 31 and cannot leave the city.
“It is important to assure the victims that despite the challenges truth will prevail,” the High Court said, referring to the courage of Jagdish Kaur, the victim who had fought for action against Sajjan Kumar and others. “The aftershock of those atrocities is still being felt,” said the court.
At least 3,000 people were killed by mobs after the assassination in November, 1984, of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
While many witnesses and survivors gave accounts of Congress leaders leading mobs targeting Sikhs, Sajjan Kumar is the first top leader of the party to be convicted. The order comes on a day the Congress takes over three big states after its election victories last week.
“Criminals have enjoyed political patronage,” the court noted, also saying there was “abject police failure” as the police failed to act against the inability of the victims to file complaints. A former Congress councillor, Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal and three others were held guilty in the Raj Nagar case but a trial court had acquitted Sajjan Kumar.
The convicts had challenged the verdict and their sentence by the trial court in May 2013.
The CBI had also filed an appeal against Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal, alleging that the mobs were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”.
Nirlep Kaur, who saw her father being burnt alive by the mobs, wept as she thanked the law for justice after 34 years.
Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, said he welcomed the verdict and “it has been a very long and painful wait for innocent victims who were murdered by those in power”. He said: “Nobody involved in any riot should be allowed to escape no matter how powerful the individual maybe.”