A three-member special investigation team (SIT) headed by former Delhi High Court judge Justice S N Dhingra was set up by the Supreme Court today to supervise further probe into 186 anti-Sikh riot cases in which closure reports were filed earlier. Besides Justice Dhingra, Abhishek Dular, a serving 2006 batch IPS officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre, and retired IG rank officer Rajdeep Singh would be part of the SIT, which was asked by a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra to submit its status report in two months. The matter will be heard next on March 19. The top court zeroed in on the names after the Ministry of Home Affairs and counsel for petitioners G S Kahlon submitted that they have arrived at a consensus with regard to the persons who could be appointed in the fresh SIT. The court had yesterday held that the previous SIT had not carried out further probe into these 186 cases in which closure reports were filed, and had directed setting up of a fresh SIT comprising a former High Court judge and two police officers. Large-scale riots had broken out in the national capital in the aftermath of the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh security guards on the morning of October 31, 1984. The violence had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.
Justice Dhingra, who had retired from Delhi High Court, had dealt with several high-profile cases including the 2001 Parliament Attack case as trial judge. He was recently in the news for heading a one-man panel that probed Haryana land scam allegedly involving Robert Vadra, the son-in-law UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Justice Dhingra as the judge of the trial court had dealt with 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases and in about 16 cases, his judgement had resulted in conviction of accused persons.
An advocate, who has been associated with the cases, said Justice Dhingra as a trial court judge had in 1990’s conducted the trial of a riots case in Trilokpuri area of East Delhi and had awarded death sentence to main accused Kishori Lal and another. The high court had confirmed the death sentence on Kishori Lal which was later commuted to life by the Supreme Court. The death sentence of another accused was commuted to life sentence by the high court itself. Abhishek Dular, who served as Superintendent of Police in Shimla, is currently on central deputation with CBI and has probed the sensational Bulandsahar highway gangrape case.
Rajdeep Singh, the third member of the new SIT, was a 1979 batch IPS officer who recently retired as Special Director General of Border Security Force. The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, had yesterday said “we have perused the report of the Supervisory Committee. On perusal of the same, we find that the SIT has not done further investigation in respect of 186 cases.” It had said that with regard to the nature of cases, “it would be appropriate that a fresh SIT should be constituted for carrying on the further investigation”.
The earlier supervisory body, which had submitted its final report, had comprised former apex court judges Justice J M Panchal and Justice K S P Radhakrishnan. On August 16 last year, the apex court had appointed the supervisory panel to examine the SIT’s decision to close 241 cases in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots matter. The Centre had said that out of 250 riots cases which were probed by the SIT, closure reports were filed in 241. It had said nine cases were still being investigated by the SIT and two being probed by the CBI.
The apex court had on March 24, 2017, asked the Centre to place before it the files pertaining to the 199 anti-Sikh riots cases which the SIT set up earlier by the Home Ministry had decided to close. The SIT was headed by Pramod Asthana, an IPS officer of 1986 batch, and had Rakesh Kapoor, a retired district and sessions judge, and Kumar Gyanesh, an additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police, as its members.
Petitioner S Gurlad Singh Kahlon had earlier told the bench that a total of 293 riot-related cases were taken up for scrutiny by the earlier SIT which had decided to close 199 of them after scrutiny. Kahlon, a member of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, had sought the court’s direction for setting up another SIT to ensure speedy justice to the riot victims.