Calculated bid to exhaust 1984 riot victims’ hopes for justice: SC-appointed panel

Justice Dhingra makes shocking conclusions about how the Delhi Police and the then administration, along with certain judges and magistrates, sabotaged the cases over the years.

January 15, 2020 04:02 pm | Updated 05:15 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court of India, at New Delhi, the Capital of India.        Photo: Rajeev Bhatt , September 19, 2003.

The Supreme Court of India, at New Delhi, the Capital of India. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt , September 19, 2003.

A Supreme Court-constituted committee has said a government that used its clout to "hush up" crimes committed by mobs during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and a Delhi Police which "miserably failed" even to help loved ones identify their dead are squarely responsible for the lack of closure and justice felt by victims even after 36 years.

"The whole effort of the police and the administration seemed to have been to hush up the criminal cases concerning the riots," the report filed by the committee chaired by former Delhi High Court judge, Justice S.N. Dhingra has said.

On Wednesday, appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the Centre would comply with the committee's  recommendations.

The committee had submitted the report in the apex court several months ago, it however came into the public domain on Wednesday.

The 1984 riots occurred in the aftermath of the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde that the government accepts the conclusions of the report and would take further legal action.

The Justice Dhingra Committee was entrusted by the apex court in January 2018 to sift through the case records of 186 anti-Sikh riot cases of murder, bodily injuries, arson, rioting, destruction of property, outraging religious feelings, etc. The court’s order was in response to a plea made by a Special Investigation Team, which was probing a total of 199 cases, for their closure due to lack of evidence. The court had decided that the case deserved a second look before any decision to close them was taken.

In his detailed report, Justice Dhingra makes shocking conclusions about how the Delhi Police and the then administration, along with certain judges and magistrates, sabotaged the cases over the years in a calculated bid to exhaust the vixtims’ hopes for justice.

Justice Dhingra said the police employed several tactics to dilute the cases. Criminal cases were registered in such a way to specifically give clean chit to certain accused persons. Hundreds of cases of murders, which had no connection to each other and had occurred in different times and locations, were clubbed together.

In one case, an “omnibus FIR” was filed on 337 separate complaints about incidents which had no connection to each other. Justice Dhingra said the police deliberately made it “humanly impossible” for themselves to investigate complaints. “How can one investigating officer probe 500 cases, trace witnesses, prepare challans and proceed in court against accused persons,” the panel report pointed out.

“The accused persons of these clubbed cases were sent to trial together. Judges and Magistrates before whom these cases came up would not bother to separate the cases or even question the police. The law requires each case has to be tried separately,” Justice Dhingra said in the report.

“If one FIR was registered in respect of one murder cum riot cum arson cum looting in an area, all other incidents of murder, arson, riot and looting of that area were clubbed in the same FIR. In the name of investigation, nothing was done,” the report said.

In most cases, the rioters were outsiders or the victims would have fled to save their lives. Thus, many accused remain unidentified. However, the Committee referred to hundreds of affidavits filed by victims, which are part of the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission, identifying the accused persons.

“Instead of registering FIRs, committee after committee were formed to delay registration of FIRs,” the report said.

Hundreds of bodies were recovered, the report said, but remain unidentified. Police did not preserve forensic evidence, which would have helped bring a sense of closure to families who still do not know what happened to their loved ones three decades ago.

In one such instance, mobs dragged out Sikh passengers out of trains at Nangloi, Kishanganj, Dayabasti, Shahdara and Tuglakabad railway stations and lynched them. Seventy-one bodies were recovered and 29 remain unidentified, the report said.

Had the administration and police been serious in punishing the culprits, Special Task Force teams for investigating the crimes would have been formed in each police station and forensic laboratories, said the report.

The incidents addressed in the 186 cases took place between November 1 and November 3 of 1984. They involved the murder of 426 people, of which 84 bodies still remain unidentified. The cases also cover the destruction of 700 properties.

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