New Delhi — The Special Trial Judge, Mr. Mahesh Chandra, on Tuesday held that a prima facie case of conspiracy and murder of Indira Gandhi existed against Satwant Singh, the alleged surviving assassin of the former prime minister, and the other two accused, Balbir Singh and Kehar Singh. Delivering his 29page order on framing of charges against all the three accused in the Tihar Jail here, Mr. Chandra observed that a separate case for charge under Section 802 IPC (murder), 807 (attempt to murder) and Section 27 of the Arms Act prima facie existed against Satwant Singh.
All the three accused, who sat in a bulletproof enclosure throughout the proceedings, heard with rapt attention as the judge read his verdict. The actual charges will be framed against the accused on July 8 in the presence of the defense counsel, Mr. P.N. Lekhi, and Mr. P.P. Grover. Till then, the court will remain adjourned.
In his detailed order in which he took note of each and every contention of the defense and prosecution counsel, Mr. Chandra observed that Mr. Lekhi had made “uncalled for and irrelevant” references to the Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, that not a drop of tear was shed by the son of the deceased over the death of his mother and that he was listening to the BBC and not AIR on the day of the assassination.
“I must place on record that court room is no place to exhibit such flights of imagination, much less to indulge in political/personal vendetta between some individuals and least for character assassination,” he said.
It was vain reference to the Prime Minister as the manner of mourning or expressing grief for one’s dear ones was a matter exclusively for the person concerned and that nobody else had a right to raise an accusing finger on this score, Mr. Chandra said.
Mr. Chandra also stressed that the special court was only conducting the trial of Indira Gandhi’s murder case and any other reference would only be irrelevant and uncalled for.
Reference to Mr. Lekhi’s submission that Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, wife of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, had not been cited as a witness in the case although she accompanied the late prime minister to the AIMS, Mr. Chandra said that she was not an eyewitness to the occurrence. If at all she had arrive at the spot after the incident. Her no examination as a witness does not in any manner affect the case of the prosecution, he added.
Mr. Lekhi had also alleged that the post mortem report of Indira Gandhi was “fabricated” as it mentioned that the body of the late prime minister was handed over by the doctor after autopsy on November 7 although she was cremated on Nov. 3.
The judge said that a perusal of the post mortem report would show that the portion which appears to have been relied upon by Mr. Lekhi refers only to the inquest papers rather date of handing over of the body. However, even assuming for the sake of arguments that the body is shown to have been returned on November 7 in the post mortem report does not affect this case, he said.
The judge said that prima facie the postmortem was conducted on October 31, the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated.
Rejecting the arguments of the defense counsel that the three accused were entitled to be discharged as the charge sheet was illegal. Mr. Chandra said that the police report was a valid report and had been validly represented.
Referring to Mr. Lekhi’s contention that Satwant Singh had not murdered Indira Gandhi as there was no motive for him, Mr. Chandra said the prime force motive had been brought out by the charge sheet.
“It is appropriate to mention that during the course of the arguments the defense counsel for Satwant has not challenged the cause of death, the number and nature of injuries as given by the postmortem report or even the finding of the CFSI,” the judge said.
Mr. Lekhi had referred to the “amrit chhakna” ceremony organized by accused Kehar Singh at the Rama Krishma Puram gurdwara in South Delhi and said only “amritdhari” Sikhs could hold any office under the provisions of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act.
“It appears that the reference to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act was more to confound the issue before this court in as much as neither Satwant Singh nor for that matter Beant Singh were seeking any office under the Act which necessitated their undergoing “amrit chhakna” ceremony, more so when they were government servants,”’ Mr. Chandra said.
Dismissing Mr. Lekhis submission that bullets were fired at Indira Gandhi from all directions, Mr. Chandra said that it was difficult to accept that firing came from any other direction as the CSFL report indicated that bullets had only been fired from Beant Singh’s 33 bore service revolver and Satwant Singh SAF carbine.
The special judge said there was hardly any weight in the statement of Mr. Lekhi that the postmortem report of Beant Singh and injury report of Satwant Singh had not been placed on record as these could not have possibly displaced either the autopsy report of Indira Gandhi of the CSFL report which were otherwise categorical as to the nature of the injuries and the weapons causing them.