1984 anti-Sikh riots verdict: HC cites Gujarat, Muzaffarnagar riots to highlight political patronage to culprits of mass killings

By: | Updated: December 18, 2018 10:16 AM

Referring to these incidents as "crimes against humanity" and "genocide", the court pointed out loopholes in law and highlighted the urgent need to address them.

Delhi High Court

Drawing a link between the deadliest mass killings in the history of independent India and political patronage that allowed the perpetrators to escape the clutches of law, the Delhi High Court on Monday pointed at loopholes and the need for law to check this. In its order convicting Congress leader for murder and other crimes in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case in the immediate aftermath of former PM Indira Gandhi’s killing by her Sikh bodyguards, the Delhi High Court cited incidents like the 2002 riots in Gujarat and the Muzaffarnagar riots, among others, to highlight how the perpetrators got away using political patronage.

Referring to these incidents as “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”, the court pointed out loopholes in law and highlighted the urgent need to address them.

“There has been a familiar pattern of mass killings in Mumbai in 1993, in Gujarat in 2002, in Kandhamal, Odisha in 2008, in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2013 to name a few… The criminals responsible for the mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage and managed to evade prosecution and punishment,” the bench comprising of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said.

Citing the challenges in bringing criminals to justice in such cases, the bench pitched for a stringent legal system. “Neither ‘crimes against humanity’ nor ‘genocide’ is part of our domestic law of crime. This loophole needs to be addressed urgently.”

The Delhi High Court claimed that common factors connecting these incidents were the “targeting of minorities and attacks spearheaded by the dominant political actors being facilitated by the law enforcement agencies”.

“The mass killings of Sikhs between 1st and 4th November 1984 in Delhi and the rest of the country, engineered by political actors with the assistance of the law enforcement agencies, answer the description of ‘crimes against humanity’ that was acknowledged for the first time in a joint declaration by the governments of Britain, Russia and France on 28th May 1915 against the government of Turkey following the large-scale killing of Armenians by the Kurds and Turks with the assistance and connivance of the Ottoman administration,” the Bench said.

The Delhi High Court Monday sentenced Congress veteran Sajjan Kumar to life in the first conviction of a politician in the deadly anti-Sikh riots in 1984. The case in which Kumar was convicted for the killing of five Sikhs in Raj Nagar part-I area in Palam Colony in South West Delhi on November 1-2, 1984 during the riots in the national capital and other parts of the country following the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31. According to official accounts, 2,733 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone and nearly 3,350 all over the country between November 1 and 4, 1984.

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