Magisterial court order accepting probe agency’s closure report set aside

Rejecting the clean chit the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) gave to senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, a sessions court here on Wednesday ordered further investigation.

Setting aside a magisterial court order accepting the closure report filed by the CBI, the sessions court directed the agency to record the statements of eyewitnesses to the murder of three Sikhs at Gurdwara Pul Bangash on November 1, 1984. They were burnt alive by a mob that was incited by Mr. Tytler, the witnesses alleged. However, the CBI concluded that Mr. Tytler was present at Teen Murti Bhawan when the riot took place.

Senior advocate H.S. Phoolka, appearing for Lakhvinder Kaur, whose husband Badal Singh was among the three men killed, alleged that the CBI “ignored the fact” that Pul Bangash was hardly 15 minutes drive from Teen Murti Bhawan.

Mr. Phoolka also alleged that the CBI did not record the statements of journalists present at a press conference by the Delhi Police Commissioner, where Mr. Tytler had allegedly stormed into and reportedly said: “You [the Commissioner] are detaining my men.” Mr. Phoolka alleged that this was an admission by Mr. Tytler that his men were rioting after Indira Gandhi’s assassination.Among the loopholes in the CBI probe that Additional Sessions Judge Anuradha Shukla Bhardwaj pointed out in her order was the agency’s failure to comply with a December 2007 order of a magistrate asking it to examine some persons who claimed to be eyewitnesses and were willing to give a statement.

In his statement, Surender Singh, an eyewitness who has since died, had claimed that three men — Chanchal Singh, Alam Singh and Santosh Singh — were at the spot and were witness to the riot.

The CBI alleged that Surender’s statements were self-contradictory and he had not mentioned the names of these three men in his earlier affidavits and statements before other legal forums. The agency went ahead and recorded statements of other witnesses who contradicted Surender’s version regarding the three men. However, none of these witnesses disputed the presence of Surender at the spot.

The CBI alleged that these three men, and a fourth, Resham Singh, who filed an affidavit in January 2012 claiming he saw Mr. Tytler at the spot were “planted” witnesses introduced at a late stage. Resham and Chanchal had approached the CBI to get their statements recorded but the CBI chose not to do so. Resham had approached the CBI team when it visited the U.S. to record the statements of other witnesses. Ms. Bhardwaj wondered how the CBI could conclude that Resham and the other three were “planted or false or unreliable” witnesses until it recorded their statements.

“The CBI has recorded the statements of many witnesses asking them specifically whether or not the above named persons were present at the spot on the date of the incident. No doubt it had the right to record these statements. However, the propriety was in having recorded both the versions — of the persons claiming that they were present and the ones who were claiming they were not present — leaving it for the court to decide which out of two was reliable, more so because the CBI was filing a closure report and not a charge sheet,” Ms. Bhardwaj said.

Some of the riot victims held a protest outside the Karkardooma court complex demanding justice for those killed and others left destitute by the riots.