The Sessions court which acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case on Tuesday, gave him the “benefit of doubt” while absolving him of charges of criminal conspiracy and inciting mobs to violence against Sikhs.
What tilted the scales of justice in favour of Sajjan was the failure of CBI’s star prosecution witness Jagdish Kaur to name him in her affidavit before the 1985 Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission and that none of the complaints of murder, rioting and looting from Raj Nagar that were clubbed together to form the omnibus FIR 416/84 mentioned Mr. Kumar’s name – or his presence in the area – in any context.
District and Sessions Judge J.R. Aryan agreed with the contention of Mr. Kumar’s counsel, that in paragraph four of Ms. Kaur’s affidavit before the Nanavati Commission she had “evasively mentioned” that Mr. Kumar was leading a mob. The court also agreed with defence counsel that paragraph nine on the second page of this affidavit, in which shestated that she had heard Mr. Kumar making a speech urging the mob not to spare even one Sikh, “was a kind of manipulation”.
Further, Mr. Aryan concurred with the defence counsel’s argument that when Ms. Kaur gave her statement before the Nanavati Commission to make clarifications in her affidavit, she would not have missed the opportunity to “elaborate” on these alleged provocative and instigating utterances.
Regarding another witness, Jagsher Singh, the court wondered why he did not mention Mr. Kumar’s role in a complaint made on November 12, 1984, by his sisters-in-law about the murders of their husbands.
“Absence of name of Sajjan Kumar in any context (earlier) and then witness Jagsher describing his role for the first time after 23 years when his 161 CrPC statement was recorded [by the CBI], sometime in 2007, raises a serious doubt in the veracity of witness concerning accused Sajjan Kumar. Though presence of Jagsher on the scene of the crime, he being resident of that very area, has been accepted, when charge against other accused was being examined, the falsehood of that part of his testimony concerning accused Sajjan Kumar may not be ruled out,” Mr. Aryan wrote.
However, in another part of the 129-page judgment Mr. Aryan praises Mr. Singh’s “truthfulness” for not naming anyone from the roster of accused, as being involved in the murder of his brother and Ms. Kaur’s husband and son, despite being an eye-witness to the three murders.
On Nirpreet Kaur, who claimed she heard Mr. Kumar make the same speech that Jagdish Kaur was also witness too, the judge said that like Mr. Singh, she also named Mr. Kumar for the first time after a very long period when her 161 CrPC statement was recorded by the CBI in 2007. The court also noted that in a statement she made to the Delhi Police about the murder of her father, Nirmal Singh, she had not named Mr. Kumar in any context.
Mr. Aryan concluded by saying: “It has been rightly argued by defence counsel that if there was any doubt regarding involvement of Sajjan Kumar in these riots, then doubt may not assume a basis of proof in the absence of acceptable and believable evidence proving his specific role. It is a matter of fact that when Jagdish Kaur submitted her affidavit before Justice Ranganath Commission she did not mention Sajjan Kumar in any manner, though other accused persons had been named. In all these facts and circumstances, testimony of Jagdish Kaur that she heard and saw Sajjan Kumar addressing a gathering with provocative and instigating utterances is not acceptable and believable and to that extent witness is not believable. Except a role of conspiracy or abetting, no other act or role has been attributed to Sajjan Kumar by the prosecution. Accordingly, accused Sajjan Kumar deserving to be a benefit of doubt is acquitted of the charge.”