NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court-appointed Justice S N Dhingra Commitee has slammed the then Union government and Delhi Police for showing utter lack of interest in booking 1984 anti-Sikh rioters for murder, arson and violence and for trying to hush up the criminal cases.
“Despite a large number of victims approaching various agencies (including Justice Ranganath Misra Commission) soon after the riots and for a few years thereafter, still a large number of crimes of murders, rioting, looting, arson remained unpunished and untraced. The basic reason for these crimes remaining unpunished and culprits getting scot-free was lack of interest shown by the police and by the authorities in handling these cases as per law or to proceed with the intention of punishing the culprits,” the Justice Dhingra committee’s report said in a scathing indictment of the Congress government led by the late Rajiv Gandhi.
“The whole efforts of the police and the administration seem to have been to hush up the criminal cases concerning riots,” it said.
The committee castigated the manner in which the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission cursorily handled the hundreds of affidavits filed by victims alleging murder, rioting, violence and arson against Sikh community members in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in October 1984.
“This is also clear from the fact that hundreds of affidavits were received by Justice Ranganath Misra Commission in respect of killings, arson and looting done by the rioters with named accused persons. Instead of directing registration of FIRs on the basis of these affidavits by respective police stations and ordering investigation, committee after committee was formed and this further delayed registration of cases for years,” it said, and pointed out that FIRs were registered in 1991 and 1992 on the basis of affidavits filed before the Misra commission in 1985.
On the shoddy manner in which trial courts acquitted the accused on the hyper-technical ground of delay, the Justice Dhingra committee told the SC, “Despite this, in almost all cases, the trial judges, to whom cases were sent for trial after investigation, rejected the testimonies of witnesses on the ground of delay in filing of FIRs, delay in recording of statement of witnesses and similar other grounds.
The committee recommended filing of appeals against six judgments recording acquittal of accused by additional sessions judge S S Bal in 1995 relating to murders (four FIRs in Nand Nagri area, one FIR each in Delhi Cantonment and Nangloi area); and acquittal recorded by additional sessions judge S P S Chaudhari in 1986 on an FIR relating to an anti-Sikh riot case in Delhi Cantonment area.
The committee also found that then SHO of Kalyanpuri police station, Survir Singh Tyagi, was in conspiracy with the rioters. “Tyagi deliberately disarmed local Sikhs of their licensed arms so that the rioters could make them victims and cause loss of life and property. He was suspended from service but was later reinstated and promoted as ACP. The committee is of the view that his case be referred to riot cell of Delhi Police for action,” it said.
The report will reinforce the view of those who have maintained that the Rajiv Gandhi government let the violence continue in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s killing by her Sikh bodyguards. Coming during the run-up to Delhi polls, it will provide fresh ammunition to opponents of Congress, which is already lagging AAP and BJP.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta on Wednesday told a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant that the Union government accepted the recommendations of the Justice Dhingra committee and would take action as per the suggestions.
The committee said the police did not register FIRs crime-wise and clubbed all complaints from one area into one FIR. “In FIR 268 of 1984 of Sultanpuri police stations, the DCP sent 337 complaints received by him soon after the riots, about incidents of burning, looting, injuries, murders etc, to Sultanpuri police station for action. Instead of recording a separate FIR in respect of each of the incident, an omnibus FIR was recorded in respect of all the 337 incidents reported to the DCP by victims and thereafter all other complaints of killing and rioting were also added to the same FIR with a result that this FIR had 498 incidents of rioting, arson, looting, burning, causing injuries and murders.
“One IO was assigned to this case. It is humanly impossible for one IO to investigate about 500 cases, to trace witnesses of each crime, to prepare challan (chargesheet) and to proceed in court against all the accused persons,” the committee said.
“Had the administration and police been serious in punishing the culprits, a special task force for investigating crimes committed within the jurisdiction of each police station would have been created by providing necessary infrastructure, including forensic teams and labs to this task force. Hundreds of bodies remained unidentified. Police did not preserve any forensic evidence with regard to unidentified bodies so that at a later stage, identification through forensic evidence could be done,” it added.