Download the FREE SBS Radio App for a better listening experience
Congress leader and former member of parliament Sajjan Kumar has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty in a 1984 Sikh pogrom case. The Delhi High Court pronounced the verdict on appeals filed against the trial court's decision to acquit Kumar.
A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court reversed his acquittal and pronounced him guilty after concluding arguments on 29th October on the appeals filed by India's Central Bureau of Investigation in a case related to the killing of five Sikh men in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi.
"It is important to assure the victims that despite the challenges truth will prevail," the High Court said, adding that Sajjan Kumar enjoyed political patronage and continued to evade justice.
He has been given time until 31st December to surrender when he will be sent to jail.
The decision has come over 34 years after thousands of Sikhs were killed in the national capital of India.
Sajjan Kumar is among the prominent leaders of the Congress party accused of inciting killers of the Sikhs after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on 31st October 1984. According to the Indian Government figures, nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed during the three days of violence in Delhi after Mrs Gandhi’s assassination.
The case of the killing of Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh- all belonging to the same family was reopened by the CBI on the recommendation of Justice Nanavati Commission in 2005. In 2013, a trial court convicted five men, including a councillor and an MLA, in this case, while Kumar was acquitted. The convicts appealed in the High Court against their conviction and sentencing.
The CBI filed cross-appeals and also challenged Kumar's acquittal in the case. The agency said all the accused, including Sajjan Kumar, were involved in the planning of the "riots" and "religious cleansing" of Sikhs.
Senior lawyer HS Phoolka represented the families of the victims in the case who last year resigned from his position of the Leader of Opposition in the Punjab legislative assembly to devote more time to the riot cases.
He told the ANI that the court observed in the judgement that Sajjan Kumar was beneficiary of political patronage.
"The only thing I can say 'thank you, big thanks'. The country has proved that nobody is above the law in this country and our judicial system is stronger than any other country," Mr Phoolka told reporters outside the court.
Last month, another Delhi court handed the first death sentence to a convict in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. The Patiala House court pronounced the death sentence for Yashpal Singh after he was found guilty of killing two Sikhs.
The Congress party that was in power at the time of the 1984 anti-Sikh violence has been accused of shielding its leaders who, according to multiple witnesses, were leading the murderous mobs against the Sikhs. The party's pick for the chief minister's post, Kamal Nath, in the state of Madhya Pradesh also faces similar accusations. Mr Nath was sworn in as the chief minister hours after the court pronounced Sajjan Kumar guilty.