A sessions court here on Thursday awarded life imprisonment to three men found guilty of committing five murders at Raj Nagar in Delhi Cantonment during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. It was in this case Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was acquitted on April 30.

Meanwhile, victims of the 1984 riots staged a protest outside the Karkardooma Court complex and raised slogans, alleging that justice was not done to them.

District Judge J.R. Aryan gave the life term to the former councillor, Balwan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and the retired naval officer, Captain Bhagmal, for murder and rioting. The court rejected the CBI’s plea for the death sentence, saying their offence did not come in the rarest of rare category.

“They had no special or personal animosity towards anyone or the deceased individually. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had blinded those youths, and unfortunately, there was no leadership to bridle the mob frenzy unleashed with all cruelty,” Mr. Aryan said, noting, however, that their acts were of a most “gruesome nature.”

Two others — the former MLA, Mahinder Yadav, and Kishan Khokkar — were awarded three-year imprisonment, as the court rejected their plea for release on probation.The court acquitted Sajjan Kumar, ruling that he deserved “the benefit of the doubt” since the main witness, Jagdish Kaur, did not name him as an accused in her statement recorded by the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission in 1985.

Mr. Aryan said: “There cannot be two opinions that offences committed in this case were grave, where[in] victims of a particular community had been targeted for killing and destroying their properties. This court has already taken the facts into consideration that there were 341 killings in the Delhi Cantonment police station area… itself.”

On why the crime did not fall in the rarest of rare category, the judge said “they went on the rampage…, unguided by any sense or reason and triggered only by a demented psyche.”

Mr. Aryan noted that the Supreme Court commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence awarded to the convicts in a case of “roasting to death” four sons of a woman in front of her eyes” on November 2, 1984 at Trilokpuri. The trial court had sentenced the convicts to death, and it was affirmed by the Delhi High Court.

During arguments on sentencing, CBI prosecutor R.S. Cheema said: “It was a planned communal riot in which the victims were isolated. It was religious cleansing which changed the demography of the areas as none of the victims returned there after the riots. The victims were totally innocent, and they had not instigated anyone. A particular community was targeted, particularly men, their houses were destroyed and burnt, and even the identity of the victims was destroyed by burning them.”

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