New Delhi — The trial of three Sikhs in the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was scheduled to begin Monday, but did not because defense attorneys and court officials disagreed on the starting time.
The two lawyers for Satwant Singh, the surviving accused assassin, arrived at the Tihar jail at about 9:45 a.m., and left 30 minutes later. They claimed the trial, being held in the jail for security reasons, was scheduled to start at 10.
“If the court doesn’t turn up, we are leaving,” said attorney Rupinder Singh Sodhi. ‘“‘What can we do? We are not playing hide and seek.”
“Neither the court or prosecution counsel has turned up,” said the other lawyer, Pran N. Lekhi. “I don’t know if they are really interested in these proceedings.”
Sodhi, told later that Judge Mahesh Chandra planned to start proceedings at 2:30 p.m., said: “We are not going. Let them wait the way we did.”
Chandra and the prosecutors arrived at the jail in the afternoon. The judge said he did not receive the order from the high court to hold the hearing until 11:45 a.m.
The three Sikh defendants were presented, but Chandra said he adjourned the hearing until Friday because only one man’s lawyer was present.
The government says Satwant Singh was one of two Sikh security guards who shot Mrs. Gandhi down Oct. 31 on the grounds of her residence. The other, Beant Singh, was killed by police commandos at the scene and Satwant Singh was wounded.
Beant Singh’s uncle, Kehar Singh, and another member of Mrs. Gandhi’s security guard, Balbir Singh, are accused of conspiracy and aiding the assassins.
Virtually every Sikh has Singh as part of his name.
According to a government statement, they agreed that a falcon they spotted on a tree in September brought a message from a guru to avenge last June’s army attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, seat of the Sikh religion.
Sikhs have mounted a long campaign for control of Punjab state, where members of the sect are a majority. Some want greater autonomy for the state and demand complete independence.
Article extracted from this publication >> May 17, 1985