Bench notes that the judgments in the five hearings reflect a “very perfunctory and hasty disposal” of the cases
Observing that the killing of men of a single community were not “simple murders” and that the “police, prosecutors and even the courts appeared to have failed the victims”, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered re-trial in five 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases in which all the accused were acquitted in 1986.
A Bench of Justices Gita Mittal and Anu Malhotra ordered re-trial in five cases registered on the complaints of Daljit Kaur, Swaran Kaur, Jagir Kaur and Baljit Kaur.
“Prima facie the judgments reflect a very perfunctory and hasty disposal of the cases, which has deeply troubled our judicial conscience,” the Bench said, while issuing show cause notices to the four accused — Balwan Khokkar, Mahender Yadav, Dhanraj and Mahender Singhall — asking why the cases against them should not be re-tried.
“Perhaps, had these terrible offences in 1984 been punished and the offenders brought to book, the history of crime in this country may have been different. We are of the view that if we fail to take action even now, we would be miserably failing in our constitutional duty as well as in discharging judicial function,” said the Bench.
The suo motu directions to reopen the cases were issued by the High Court as it was hearing an appeal by the CBI against the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar by a trial court in 2013 in a case pertaining to the killing of five Sikh men in Delhi Cantonment area during the riots.
It was also hearing the appeals of Balwan Khokkar, Mahender Yadav, Girdhari Lal, Kishan Khokkar and Captain Bhagmal, who were convicted by a trial court for allegedly conspiring and inciting a mob against the Sikh community.
During the hearing of these appeals, the Bench noticed five judgements from 1986 in which the accused persons had been acquitted by the trial court.
The Bench noted that the cases had been decided in five months and many crucial witnesses had not been examined. In one case, the prosecution produced only four police witnesses and the trial was completed in five months.
The Bench has directed the Delhi Police to investigate the issues and fixed the matter for April 20. It has also asked the complainants to appear before the court.
“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? We are conscious that no order adverse to the interest of an accused person (who stands acquitted) or a victim can be passed without hearing him/her or behind his/her back,” the bench said while treating the cases as a petition under section 401 CrPC which gives power to the court to order re-trial.
The bench noted that during the hearing of the appeals, it had repeatedly queried counsels as to who was killed, or even how many died in the violence which erupted after the 31st of October, 1984?
“We have got no firm answer at all. The complaints (in the five cases registered in 1986) show that only adult male members of families of one community were killed. The complaints disclose horrifying crimes against humanity.
“The complaints also point out that male members of one community were singled out for elimination. This suggests that these were no ordinary crimes, or ‘simple’ murders (if ever a murder could be termed as ‘simple’). Treated as individual cases, while the culprits got away scot free, everybody else, the police, the 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 book, the history of crime in this country, may have been different. We are of the view that if we fail to take action even now, we would be miserably failing in our constitutional duty as well as in discharging judicial function,” the bench said.