SC refuses interim relief to Sajjan Kumar in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case

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NEW DELHI, Feb 14 (AGENCIES): The Supreme Court Friday refused to grant interim bail to former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, sentenced to life imprisonment in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, and said it will hear his plea during the summer break. Kumar, who sought bail on health grounds, was awarded life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court on December 17, 2018 in the case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde made clear that the medical report of All India Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on health conditions of Kumar would be considered by it in March after a nine-judge Constitution bench would conclude hearing in the Sabarimala reference matter.

“There are cases. But this case is different and you (Kumar) have been convicted by the High Court… You (senior lawyer Vikas Singh) argue at length during summer vacations,” said the bench which also comprised Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant.

Singh, appearing for the former Congress leader, said Kumar had been on bail all along during the trial and the lower court had acquitted him in the case and the high court set aside the verdict.

“The appellant was of 67 kgs and has lost 13 kgs in last almost 13 months… who will be responsible if something happens to him,” the lawyer said, adding that the bail plea be considered urgently. Another senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the riots victim, referred to the fate of two persons convicted in hate crimes in the USA post 9/11 and said that they were awarded death penalty for the offence of murder within six months and their plea for commutation of death penalty was rejected.

“Here 4,000 people were slaughtered (during Anti-Sikh riots) and 2,000 people were killed during Gujarat riots,” Dave said, adding that here an MP was involved and the FIR was registered after 21 years of the massacre following the report of the Justice Nanavati Commission.

The top court had on November 6, last year directed that the former Congress leader be examined by a panel of AIIMS doctors and a report be submitted to it on his health conditions. On August 5, last year, the apex court said it would hear Kumar’s bail plea in May 2020 as it was not an “ordinary case” and required detailed hearing before any order is passed.

Kumar resigned from the Congress after he was convicted by the high court. The case in which he was convicted and sentenced relates to the killing of five Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar Part-I area of southwest Delhi on November 1-2 in 1984, and burning down of a gurdwara in Raj Nagar Part-II.

Anti-Sikh riots had broken out after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards. Kumar has also challenged in the apex court the Delhi High Court’s verdict of December 17 last year that awarded him life imprisonment for the “remainder of his natural life” in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

The high court had convicted him 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. The high court had set aside the trial court’s 2010 verdict, which had acquitted Kumar in the case.

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