1984 Riots: Convicts cite five acquittals of 1986, Delhi HC re-opens acquittals [Read order]

1984 Riots: Convicts cite five acquittals of 1986, Delhi HC re-opens acquittals [Read order]

Bar & Bench

In what could very well be an order of significant ramifications, the Delhi High Court today re-opened five cases relating to 1984 riots, which were closed in 1986. The Court in its order also came down upon the police and prosecution for the shoddy work done by them in bringing the offenders to the book.

A Bench of Justices Gita Mittal and Anu Malhotra, which has been hearing appeals filed by certain other convicts (appellants) in the 1984 riots case, took suo-moto action under the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court.

Interestingly, the five cases came to the knowledge of the court after they were cited by the appellants to buttress their arguments.

The court noted in its order that the judgments of acquittal reflect a

“very perfucntory and hasty disposal of the cases which has deeply troubled our judicial conscience.Would it be permissible for this court to shut its eyes in the matter or does the available statutory regime and law make available any possible option for intervention at this stage?”

The Court then proceeded to analyse various statutory provisions and precedents in this regard. It then noted that the “bare essential requirements of any investigation into any of the complaints” were not adhered to.

“It is not disclosed as to on whose instance that the site plan was prepared and what were the photographs taken of? No effort has been made to trace either the dead bodies or the stolen materials. No statement of eye-witnesses including relatives or any other neighbours or other public persons who may have been present has been recorded.

What to say of investigation, the complaints which disclosed commission of heinous and serious offences like murder have not even been registered.”

The Court also had some strong words for the police and the prosecution.

“The prosecutors also appear to have abdicated their duties and have not assisted the trial courts nor ensured that the truth was brought out, guilty convicted and serious crimes punished. The prosecutions were launched without any effort at ensuring that investigations were honestly complete and that culpability could be fixed.”

Lamenting at the fact that the police, prosecution and the courts failed the victims, the Court says,

“The complaints disclose horrifying crimes against humanity. The complaints also point out that male members of one community were singled out for elimination. This suggest that these were not ordinary crimes….while the culprits got away scot-free, the police, prosecutors, even the courts, appear to have failed the victims and most importantly society. Perhaps, had these terrible offences in 1984 been punished and the offenders brought to the book, the history of crime in this country may have been different.”

The Court therefore, proceeded to register its order as a petition under section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It issued notice to the accused and the State and also asked them to show cause why retrial should not be held in the 5 cases after a fresh probe by an independent agency.

The anti-sikh riots broke out after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Many cases were registered against alleged perpetrators, but due to lack of proper investigation, political pressure and witnesses turning hostile, very few convictions took place.

A Special Investigation Team has also been constituted to re-investigate matters relating to the 1984 riots. The Supreme Court is currently monitoring the same.

Read the order of the Delhi High Court.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news