Opposing his bail plea in 1984 anti-Sikhs riots case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) agency on Monday told the Supreme Court that former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was the "kingpin" of the gruesome offence in which Sikhs were "massacred" in Delhi following the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
Kumar moved the Supreme Court, challenging the December 17 Delhi High Court verdict that awarded him life imprisonment for the "remainder of his natural life" in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. The 73-year-old politician, who is currently lodged in jail, has also filed an application seeking bail. His bail application came up for hearing on Monday before a bench of Justices SA Bobde and SA Nazeer.
The case in which Kumar 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 and 2, 1984, and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar Part-II. The massacre continued for several days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi and an estimated 8,000 - 17,000 or more Sikhs were killed in 40 cities across India.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, opposed Kumar's plea saying it would be a "travesty of justice" if Kumar was granted bail as he is facing trial in another 1984 anti-Sikh riots case at Patiala House district court in Delhi. "This is a gruesome offence of massacre of Sikhs. He (Kumar) was the leader and kingpin of this," Mehta told the bench.
During the arguments, the counsel representing Kumar told the bench that a key witness in the case had earlier given four statements in which she had not named Kumar but later, she named the former Congress leader in her statement. "How long he (Kumar) has been in jail?" the bench asked.
To this, the counsel said Kumar is in jail for past over three months and during the adjudication of the trial, he was out on anticipatory bail and never misused the liberty.
Mehta, however, told the bench about the circumstances in which Kumar was granted anticipatory bail and argued that a violent mob had gathered at Kumar's residence when CBI team had gone there during a probe into the case.
The bench was also told by one of the advocates that Kumar was a sitting MP in 1984 and several Sikhs were killed during the riots in his constituency. When Kumar's counsel referred to the merits of the case, the bench said: "We do not know why you are inviting our attention to the facts of the case. "Today, you (Kumar) are convicted by the high court. It is not a charge by police. We cannot treat it lightly."
During the hearing, when Mehta referred to the ongoing trial against Kumar in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the bench asked, "How many witnesses are yet to be examined?". Mehta said the case is at the stage of recording of prosecution evidence and the apex court can ask the trial court to expedite it. The bench, however, asked the CBI to apprise it of the status of the ongoing trial in the case involving Kumar and listed his bail plea for hearing on April 15.
Kumar had surrendered before a trial court in Delhi on December 31, 2018, to serve the sentence in pursuance of the high court's December 17 verdict. After his conviction in the case, Kumar had resigned from the Congress party.
The CBI has recently told the top court that Kumar's plea seeking bail should be dismissed as he has a "large political clout" and is capable of "influencing or terrorising" witnesses in the case pending against him.
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 the 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.
(With inputs from PTI)