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 the deaths of over 2,700 Sikhs in Delhi alone. "Law and order clearly broke down and it was literally a free-for-all situation. Aftershocks of that still being felt," the high court said in the judgment.
The verdict came as a setback for the Congress as politicians slammed the party over the charge of "politicial patronage", with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying that the "cover-ups" were being "defeated" with the judgment. "The judgment of the Delhi High Court is an extremely welcome development. For many of us who are witnesses, it was perhaps the worst kind of genocide that we ever saw. Congress governments in that period repeatedly indulged in coverup exercises," he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sajjan Kumar: The coverups are now being defeated. Sajjan Kumar was a symbol of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The legacy of 1984 anti-Sikh riots hangs around the neck of Congress and Gandhi family. pic.twitter.com/NLhsl3ONgX
— ANI (@ANI) December 17, 2018
The finance minister also tweeted that Kumar's conviction was a "delayed vindication of justice". He said, "The Congress and the Gandhi family legacy will continue to pay for the sins of 1984 riots."
The Delhi High Court verdict comes ahead of the Congress leader Kamal Nath taking oath as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Nath was also allegedly involved in the riots case but was acquitted of charges.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra criticised the Congress' choice to appoint Nath in the chief minister's post. He said, "Kamal Nath was named in the case when the Nanavati Commission was in charge, and the double-faced Congress has made him the chief minister of the state."
Patra said that Kumar's indictment was not just that of an individual, but of the entire party. "Sajjan Kumar has been sentenced to life imprisonment, but Rahul Gandhi is imprisoned by his conscience," the BJP spokesperson said. He added, "He should resign as party president."
Patra also referred to the recent Supreme Court judgment dismissing petitions demanding a probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal and said that "truth always triumphs". "Whether it is Rafale or the riots, the truth cannot be hidden. Every citizen can say today Satyameva Jayate," he said.
However, according to CNN-News18 the Congress rejected the BJP's criticism of Nath's appointment and said that the party should first answer for the 2002 riots. "Answer for 2002, then we'll answer for 1984," Congress leader Kapil Sibal, according to the report.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh welcomed the conviction of Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 riots case, and termed it a case of justice finally delivered to the victims of one of the worst instances of communal violence in India.
The Punjab chief minister, however, reiterated his stand that neither the Congress party nor the Gandhi family had any role to play in the rioting, and lashed out at the Badals for continuing to drag their names into the case.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the judgment should not be made into a political issue, adding that the law would take its course. Sunil Jakhar, of the Congress party, said, "No one is above law. Those involved in this crime should be given strictest punishment. Law has taken its own course. It'll strengthen people's trust in the law. Any person who has been convicted in such cases should quit their political life."
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.
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.
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."
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."
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 17, 2018 15:19:40 IST