NEW DELHI, March 15 (AGENCIES): Former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar has been using his “large political clout” to derail trial and influence witnesses in cases related to 1984 anti-Sikh riots, CBI told the Supreme Court Friday while seeking that life term given to him should be upheld. 73-year-old Kumar has challenged in the top court the Delhi High Court’s December 17, 2018 verdict sentencing him to life term in a case related to killing of five Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar Part-I area of southwest Delhi on November 1 and 2, 1984, and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part-II.
In response to Kumar’s application seeking suspension of sentence and grant of bail, CBI has said that he is capable of “influencing/terrorising witnesses” and fair trial would not be possible in the case pending against him, if he is granted bail. CBI has said brutal murders during the 1984 riots fall under the category of “crimes against humanity on parity with well known genocides worldwide like large scale killing of Armenians by Kurds and Turks, mass extermination of Jews by Nazis, mass killing of Bangladeshi citizens by the sympathisers of Pakistani Army and mass killing during various ethnic riots within India also”.
Opposing Kumar’s application, it said that in this case the minority community was targeted by “spearheaded attacks of dominant political actors like the applicant/convict (Kumar) and duly facilitated by law enforcement agencies”. In view of Kumar’s conduct in “using his political clout to derail trial and influence witnesses”, his sentence must be upheld and bail should not be granted, CBI said.
“It took 34 valuable years of legal battle and courage shown by fearless witnesses/victims, which has resulted in his conviction and no leniency, therefore, on the ground of age should be granted,” it said. The probe agency further said Kumar is a “political leader with a large political clout” and he has a “following in and around Delhi and is capable of influencing/terrorising witnesses”. The matter came up for hearing on Friday before a bench of Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer. It has fixed the case for further hearing on March 25. CBI said that at the time of the incident, Kumar was a Member of Parliament of the then ruling party in India and killings in this case had taken place in pursuance to the provocative speeches made by him against the Sikh community.
“Considering the influence of the applicant/convict (Kumar) in the society, the fact that he belongs to one of the older political parties having substantial following, the gravity of the offence for which the trial is going on, the prosecution seriously apprehends that a fair trial in the aforementioned pending case would not be possible if the applicant/convict is enlarged on bail,” the CBI said.
It said due to Kumar’s powerful position and influence, several persons who had mustered courage to be witness against him have resiled from their earlier statements out of fear. The CBI further said that in January this year, they have received a letter from three prime witnesses in the case who have apprehended that they “may be harmed” by Kumar.
“It is, therefore, most humbly prayed that in view of the above submissions (in the reply), the application filed by the applicant/convict seeking bail/suspension of sentence may kindly be dismissed in the interest of justice,” it said. Kumar, through his counsel Ajay Marwah, has approached the apex court against the high court’s verdict convicting him in the case. Anti-Sikh riots had broken out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 by her two Sikh bodyguards.
The top court earlier admitted Kumar’s appeal for hearing and issued notice to the CBI on his bail plea. Kumar surrendered before a trial court here on December 31, 2018, to serve the sentence in pursuance of the high court’s judgment awarding him life imprisonment for the “remainder of his natural life”. After his conviction in the case, Kumar had resigned from the Congress party. The high court had convicted and sentenced Kumar to spend the remainder of his life in jail for the offences of criminal conspiracy and abetment in commission of crimes of murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of communal harmony and defiling and destruction of a Gurdwara. It had also upheld the conviction and varying sentences awarded by a trial court to five others — former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and ex-MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.
In its judgment, the high court noted that over 2,700 Sikhs were killed in the national capital during the 1984 riots which was indeed a “carnage of unbelievable proportions”. It said the riots were a “crime against humanity” perpetrated by those who enjoyed “political patronage” and aided by an “indifferent” law enforcement agency. The high court had set aside the trial court’s 2010 verdict which had acquitted Kumar in the case.