Notwithstanding the fact that two Commissions of Inquiry and eight government-appointed committees have till date been constituted into the 1984 riots, many of the primary accused were never charge sheeted or were acquitted.
Starting from the Marwah Commission that was appointed in November 1984 when Ved Marwah, Additional Commissioner of Police, was assigned the job of inquiring into the role of the police during the carnage, to the Nanavati Commission that was appointed by a unanimous resolution passed in the Rajya Sabha, these panels looked into various aspects of the violence.
But according to the victims little relief came by way of these panels. Incidentally, while the records of the Marwah Commission were taken over by the government and were later transferred to the Misra Commission, the handwritten notes of Mr. Marwah, which contained important information, were not transferred.
Over the years, such episodes continued to eat into the confidence of the victims in the justice delivery system.
Some relief was, however, provided by the Nanavati Commission that was headed by retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India Justice G.T. Nanavati and submitted its report in February 2004. It claimed that that there was evidence against Congressmen Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and H.K.L. Bhagat for instigating the mobs to violence. The Commission also held the then Delhi Police Commissioner S.C. Tandon directly responsible for the riots. Following this report Jagdish Tytler had resigned from the Union Cabinet and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised to the Sikhs for the riots.
Phoolka, who was the lawyer in charge before the Mishra Commission and also appeared before the Nanavati Commission before which over 10,000 affidavits were filed, believes that there is still a lot that needs to be done.
“It is my duty to pursue the cases and take them to the logical end. We should keep fighting irrespective of results. These people are very powerful, we also have to gather our strength to fight them.”
Though a constitutional and property lawyer, Mr. Phoolka has been fighting all the cases related to the 1984 carnage as a mission.
“In all,” he said, “about 200 cases were registered in the beginning including a single case in Trilokpuri for 292 killings in separate areas there. Most of these cases were closed in the initial stages but many of these were reopened on the recommendation of the Jain-Agarwal Committee. Then in 1993, 400 cases were registered, including those that were reopened. While a majority of these were closed by police for lack of evidence about 200 went to trial. Of them only about half a dozen are pending now.
“In the murder cases, there was conviction in only nine and a total of 20 accused were convicted. These cases were then also approved by the High Court. For injuries and rioting about 200 people were convicted in 10 different cases. This, when nearly 4,000 people were killed (2,733 as per official records).
“All along, the investigation was very defective — it is better in cycle theft cases — and attempts were made to shield individuals,” he says.