In a bid to render ‘speedy’ justice to the victims of the 1984 riots, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) closed 199 out of a total of 293 cases. Questioning whether effective justice has been delivered, the Supreme Court recently appointed a two-member committee to re-open around 200 of these cases to determine if the investigations in the closed cases were conducted properly.
Question: After three decades of litigation and various reports and commissions, will the reopening of some cases help victims or is it too late? We ask experts.
The message from 1984 was that instead of jail, you will get positions of power —H. S. Phoolka lawyer, AAP Leader and Founder, Citizen’s Justice Committee
The CBI had earlier concluded that the police had wrongly closed the cases. In their investigation, they had found that the police had even fabricated the records. Only four cases were reopened on the recommendation of Nanawati Commission in 2005. Of these, the CBI found sufficient evidence against three. Charge sheets were filed in two of these cases. Trial in one of these cases concluded in 2013, and five were convicted. That shows us that evidence against the perpetrators is still available.
Witnesses are still alive and able in many of these cases, memories are still etched in their minds. If the cases are reopened, it can still result in conviction. Lapse of time is no excuse for illegalities and crimes committed by the police to go unpunished.
After so many years, the law of the land in the cases of murder does catch up with the criminals. Lapse of time is no limitation, especially when the evidence is still there and there is likelihood that some people may be punished.
The re-opening of these cases will assuage the feelings of victims and give a “sense” of some justice. It will help bring closure in the issue. After all, you cannot wrap up a wound without addressing the healing aspect. It will continue causing trouble and erupt repeatedly.
In 33 years, this is for the first time that I have seen the Supreme Court showing this much concern for 84 riots.
Investigating agencies back then were the same police who had participated in the killing. Many powerful people were involved in the heinous crimes. What you see around you these days, the mob frenzy – the trend actually began in 1984. But the message that went out was that instead of jail, you will get positions of power.
During a panel discussion at the release of my book in 2007, former minister Salman Khurshid said that there needs to be fear in the minds of people that the past can catch up with you, even after decades.
Not only the investigative agencies, our own community groups have not supported us —Nirpreet Kaur, Chairperson, Justice For Victims Organisation
In 2013, when I was sitting on a hunger strike, I was the one who demanded the Special Investigation Team (SIT). But due to political pressure, the SIT did not fulfil its responsibilities honestly. They did not even visit the victims’ homes because they claimed most victims had shifted to other places and some were dead.
This SIT closed 199 cases out of total of 299 cases. They put out newspaper advertisements calling victims to come and register their cases, but people did not come and will not come because they are scared, traumatised, and mostly uneducated.
No gurdwara committee, or even the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) supported us. Atma Singh Lubana and his supporters intimidated and harassed many key November 1984 pogrom witnesses, including Satnami Bai and Darshan Kaur. Lubana, a close associate of H. K. L. Bhagat was instrumental in turning Satnami Bai, a key witness, hostile.
Not only Congress, the whole political class has failed us. Everyone killed Sikhs on the streets of Delhi in November 1984, including BJP and RSS. They had one aim, “Humein Sikhon ko khatm karna hai.”
Akali Dal has not been able to pressure the successive governments enough; they remember us on the eve of elections for our votes. Victims are still in anguish. Even the present Aam Aadmi Party government didn’t give us jobs or resettle us.
Even now nothing will happen.
By appointing Commissions again and again, the wounds of 1984 riots flare up — R. K. Anand, former Senior Advocate who defended H. K. L. Bhagat in a trial court
On 31.10.1984, shortly after 9.00 a.m, late Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her sikh bodyguards. About 2700 sikhs were killed.
After the riots, the government appointed a sitting Supreme Court Judge R. N. Mishra to conduct inquiry into 1984 riots who submitted his report in 1985. Over the next two decades, nine Commissions of Inquiry were instituted — seven of these investigated specific aspects of the tragedy.
Justice Nanavati (Retired SC Judge) was appointed by the NDA Government in May, 2000. The Commission took five years to give its report. It detailed the accusation against Jagdish Tytler, H. K. L. Bhagat, and Sajjan Kumar for inciting the mob. It also held former Lt. Governor P.G. Gavai and S.C. Tandon, the police commissioner responsible.
One sitting and one retired Judge of Supreme Court had already gone into each and every aspect on the basis of registration of the criminal cases. Justice Nanavati probed 1984 and 2002 riot cases. Besides, Justice Umesh Mishra, Supreme Court judge, was also appointed as a Commission of Inquiry.
Justice G.B. Mathur, a retired Judge of Supreme Court also gave a report, which led to the setting up of a Committee to form SIT to re-investigate 1984 riot cases. Judges have examined it and compensation has been paid. What useful purpose would be served to appoint one more retired Supreme Court Judge to re-open the all cases?
The politicians appoint commissions as a tool to quickly pacify the agitated populace. The probe goes on and the reports are not tabled for years.
Sometimes, when the Commission of convenience become Commission of contradiction for the government, it is disbanded or the recommendations are rejected.
People should be allowed to rest in peace to forget the past. By appointing Commissions again and again, the wounds of 1984 riots flare up.
Despite BJP rule, there has been no will to enforce accountability for the massacres under the Congress — Manoj Mitta, author of book “When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath”
One big difference between 1984 and 2002 is the degree of impunity. Not only was the scale of violence much larger in Delhi in 1984, but so has been the extent to which the criminal justice system has failed in the last three decades.
Unlike their counterparts of 2002, the victims of the 1984 carnage have had little consolation by way of justice, especially in cases of high-level political complicity. Though they have had their share of disappointments, the Gujarat victims at least secured the conviction of Maya Kodnani, who was a minister in the Modi-ruled state government at that time.
In contrast, none of Kodnani’s counterparts in the Delhi violence – Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, Kamal Nath nor even the late H. K. L. Bhagat — was convicted despite elaborate motions of justices, a dozen inquiries by a succession of committees and commissions, the latest of which was appointed last fortnight by the Supreme Court.
On the face of it, the Supreme Court intervention in the 1984 context would appear to be a happy augury. After all, it was the same Supreme Court intervention that was mainly responsible for making a dent in impunity in the 2002 context. But then, it may prove to be a case of ‘too little too late’.
The job of this supervisory panel of two retired judges appointed on August 16 is to report in three months why over 200 cases of the 1984 carnage have remained closed despite the apparent exertions of a special investigation team (SIT) over the last two years.
The figures are telling.
Out of the 293 cases scrutinised by it, the SIT, by its own account, reopened investigation in only 59. And out of those 59 reopened cases, it once again closed 38 of them and recorded evidence to file charge sheets in only four cases.
Despite the BJP rule, there has hardly been any will to enforce accountability for the massacres that took place under the Congress. It’s as if there is a tacit deal between the sponsors of 1984 and 2002.
Governments and police intimidated victims, many turned hostile and refused to recount their stories — Jarnail Singh, AAP leader and author of book “I Accuse: The Anti-Sikh Violence of 1984”
The Marwaha Commission that was set-up to look into the role of the Delhi Police in 1984 massacre, was shut down even before its report was given. This commission was replaced by the Misra commission, headed by former CJI and the first chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Ranganath Mishra. Shockingly, he did not find anyone guilty in his report and awarded with berth in Rajya Sabha.
The consecutive governments and Delhi Police intimidated victims, often violently, and a lot of victims turned hostile and refused to recount their stories. The Kusum Lata Mittal Committee found 72 police officers guilty including DSP Seva Das and Shurvir Tyagi, the perpetrators of the Trilok puri massacre, and asked for criminal charges against them.
No action was taken.
No police officer was willing to investigate his colleagues. The governments continued to protect Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, promoting them to the ranks of cabinet ministers. The first FIR filed against Sajjan Kumar was after 11 years.
On the 2nd of April, former Home Minister, P. Chidambaram said he was happy that Tytler and Kumar had been given a clean chit. Congress Party gave them tickets to contest Parliament elections. But, when a shoe was hurled at P. Chidambram, the party withdrew their tickets and a case was filed against Kumar and 5 other culprits in which they all got convicted excluding Sajjan Kumar. Three got life-term. Tytler’s clean chit was cancelled and court asked the CBI to file a fresh chargesheet. It’s pending in Karkardooma Court.
In Pulbangash Gurdwara, where three people died, Tytler was leading the mob. But the main witness, Surinder Singh Granti, who gave a statement against him turned hostile eventually when his son was sent to Canada and received $50,000. A friend of Tytler, Abhishek Verma eventually disclosed this information.
Now, the SC is directly handling the cases. But a strong political will is needed.