The pronouncement of judgment was greeted with a huge uproar by the protesters, one of whom hurled a shoe at the judge soon after he acquitted Kumar in the case.
A sessions court here on Tuesday acquitted senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar of all charges in the murder of five Sikhs in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.
Among the five other accused, former Municipal Corporation of Delhi councillor Balwan Khokhar, Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal were held guilty of murder and rioting charges, while the former MLA, Mahender Yadav, and Balwan’s brother, Krishan Khokhar, were held guilty of rioting charges. The conspiracy charges pressed by the CBI on all six accused failed to stick.
District and Sessions Judge J.R. Aryan will hear arguments on sentence on May 6. The judgment was not made available to reporters on Tuesday. Three of the convicts with murder charges against them were sent to judicial custody.
Also present in the courtroom was CBI’s star witness Jagdish Kaur, whose husband Kehar Singh; elder son Gurpreet Singh; and cousins Narinder Pal Singh, Raghuvinder Singh and Kuldeep Singh were murdered during the riots that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
During arguments, the CBI alleged the existence of a conspiracy of “terrifying proportions” between the Delhi Police and Mr. Kumar.
Ms. Kaur had clearly named three of the convicts during her testimony before the court. She had deposed that Balwan Khokhar was part of the mob that killed her husband on November 1, 1984. She also testified that her three cousins were killed by a mob comprising Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal at 7.30 a.m. on November 2, 1984.
Another eyewitness, Jagsher Singh, deposed in the court that he was witness to the murders of Kehar, Gurpreet and Narenderpal, but he did not name the five convicts as being part of the mob. CBI special public prosecutor R. S. Cheema had used this to argue that Jagsher was a “truthful” witness.
Third prosecution witness Nirpreet Kaur testified in the court that Balwan and Kishan Khokhar, Mahender Yadav, and Captain Bhagmal were part of the mob that burnt to death her father, Nirmal Singh. Interestingly, all three claimed they were eyewitnesses to the Mr. Kumar inciting mobs to violence against Sikhs.
While both women alleged that they witnessed Mr. Kumar give an incendiary speech, Mr. Jagsher Singh alleged he saw Mr. Kumar come to Raj Nagar and evaluate the damage done to Sikh houses. He said Mr. Kumar berated the rioters for not doing their job properly.
Shoe hurled at judge
A shoe was hurled at the judge who delivered the verdict in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case by Karnail Singh, president of the All India Sikh Students Federation. It, however, missed the judge who immediately left the courtroom.
Police have lodged an FIR against Singh under Sections 186 (obstructing a public servant from doing his duty) and 353 (assault to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code.
To begin with, the scene was quite normal in the courtroom. Till 1-30 p.m, lawyers, riot victims and media-persons were filing into the courtroom in an orderly manner after being frisked thoroughly. But the police suddenly asked everyone to vacate the courtroom citing security reasons.
Around 3 p.m., when the judgment was to delivered, the spectators massed up outside the courtroom and demanded that they be let in. Amid much heckling and frayed tempers, the crowd surged into the courtroom without being frisked. In the midst of the turmoil, Karnail Singh hurled the shoe at the judge.
Sajjan Kumar, who appeared relieved by the judgment, was quickly escorted away. Police had a tough time assuaging the upset riot victims who alleged that justice was not done to them.
Finally, a strong posse of policemen and women, armed with lathis and guns, arrived and escorted the CBI star witness Jagdish Kaur and her son and journalist Jarnail Singh out of the courtroom. They later staged a sit-in to protest against Karnail Singh’s detention.