NEW DELHE In the first conviction in a case relating to the November 1984 riots and killings in Delhi, Additional Sessions Judge, J. D. Kapoor on Tuesday sentenced six accused to life imprisonment.

In his 16page judgment, Additional Sessions Judge Kapoor also censured the authorities particularly the police, for not taking timely action to prevent killings directed against a particular community and also for not properly investigating complaints on time.

In his judgment Mr. Kapoor said the accused had been found to have indulged in rioting and killed more than four persons. Three of the victims were brothers. They had been dragged out of houses, beaten up with iron rods and ‘dandas’ and then set ablaze in Mahavir Enclave in Delhi Cantonment.

However considering the circumstances of the case and the defense plea that the news of the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi had caused anger and anguish and that the subsequent riots and killing of male members of a particular community were a spontaneous manifestation of the anger of the masses, the judge said, “I feel inclined to award the minimum punishment prescribed for the major offence of murder instead of the extreme penalty of death.”

Recounting the facts of the case, Mr. J.D. Kapoor however, said, “If the facts are any indication, hordes of hoodlums and so called antisocial elements and rioters had a field day as there was nobody around including the law enforcing agency, to come to the rescue of the victims and to save their dwellings from being looted.

“Even the sub-inspector of this case, who sent the report for registration of the case was not only a silent spectator but a hapless witness to houses being burnt, properties and valuables of the inmates being taken away and people being killed ruthlessly and mercilessly,” the judgment said.

The complainant in this case, Mrs. Mohinder Kaur, a widow had been living with her three young sons, Sukhbir Singh, Jasbir Singh and Kulbir Singh at plot no 84 in Mahavir Enclave, Delhi Cantonment.

According to her on November 1, 1984 a large crowd led by the accused persons and armed with iron rods, dragged out her sons from the adjacent houses where they were hiding and burnt them alive. The assailants were known to her because they lived in the same area. All her belongings were taken away and the house was burnt.

To establish its case, the prosecution produced six photographs showing burnt human bones. And charred bodies Flames and smoke were also discernible in some of the photographs, the judge pointed out.

“However it is strange that the police is still continuing with outmoded cameras and poor quality of photographs. It looks as if they are not yet ready to give a go-bye to the old medieval and archaic methods of investigation. The photographs are little larger than passport size and wishy-washy. One could have a wider and clearer view had the photographs been coloured and larger in size,” Mr. J. D. Kapoor pointed out in his judgment.

The judgment pointed out that SI Mohinder Singh who was put ‘on the special investigation team: of South District in November 1984 and deputed to investigate the case on November 12 had found the charred bodies and the burnt bones, 11 days after the incident.

The non chalent attitude of the authorities is indescribable, the additional session’s judge said in his judgment.

The six convicted in the case and sent to jail are Shree Ram Sharma, son of Arjun Lal, Dharam Raj alias Gorkha, Lek Raj son of Bedi, Raj Pal Singh son of Khazan Singh Suresh, son of Gaeundhu Ram and Man Singh Rawat, son of Ram Singh Rawat, all residents of Mahavir Enclave.

Besides life imprisonment the six accuses have been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment each under Section 147 read with Section 148 of the IPC and five years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2000. In case of default they will face three months RI each under Section 436 of the IPC. They have also been fined Rs 2000 each and sentenced to 3 months RI under Section 149 of the IPC.

However, the substantive sentences will run concurrently and if any fine is realized from the convicted persons it will go to the heirs of the deceased.

About 400 cases of rioting, arson and killing were registered in various Delhi courts after the November riots. Some of these cases have been dismissed for lack of evidence.

Article extracted from this publication >> November 11, 1988