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Congress leader Sajjan Kumar sentenced to life in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case

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1984 Anti-Sikh Riots: The Delhi High Court on Monday reversed the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and sentenced him to life imprisonment in the case of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The court observed that the riots “were a carnage of unbelievable proportions” resulting in more than 2,700 Sikhs were killed in the week following Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984. “Law and order clearly broke down and it was literally a free-for-all situation. After shocks of that still being felt,” the high court said in the judgment.

A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel made it clear Sajjan Kumar cannot be given a lenient sentence for “abetting and instigating” people to kill Sikhs in the aftermath of the assassination of then PM Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards and dubbed the killings a “carnage of unbelievable proportions”.  

It directed Sajjan Kumar not to leave the national capital and surrender before the court concerned on or before December 31. The court also imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on Sajjan Kumar.

On this, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur said that the victims now “stand vindicated” and justice prevails. She also stated that eventually, the Gandhi family will also be convicted. “It is Sajjan Kumar today, it will be Jagdish Tytler tomorrow, then Kamal Nath and eventually the Gandhi family,” she said.

President of the Shiromani Akali Dal Sukhbir Singh Badal said Kumar should have been given the death penalty and not just a life sentence. Another Akali Dal leader, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, thanked the court “for giving us justice”. “Our fight will continue till Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler get death sentence, and the Gandhi family is dragged to court and put in jail.”

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also welcomed the verdict: “It has been a very long and painful wait for innocent victims who were murdered by those in power,” he tweeted.

Former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Shiromani Akali Dal leader also lauded the judgment and said that Rahul, Sonia, and the Congress party will have to “answer a lot of questions”. He added, “If the accused had been given the death sentence, families of the victims would get more closure.”

While, In April 2013, a trial court had acquitted Kumar in the case but sentenced three others to life. These were former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal. The court had sentenced two others, former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar, to three years in jail. The convicts had challenged their conviction and sentencing in May 2013, and a trial court had acquitted Kumar of all charges.

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