1984 riots: One sentenced to death, another to life for killing two Sikhs

This is the first death sentence handed down in a case probed by a special investigation team (SIT) after a fresh inquiry into the cases was ordered by the Centre three years ago.

Updated: Nov 20, 2018 23:58:32

By Richa Banka

Family members of the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots stage a protest at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, on Nov 1, 2018. (PTI File Photo)

Thirty-four years after the murder of two men in the anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, a city court on Tuesday awarded the death penalty to one convict and life imprisonment to another.

Yashpal Singh,55, a transporter, and retired postmaster Naresh Sehrawat, in his late 50s, had been convicted on November 14 for murdering their neighbours Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh by setting them on fire in south Delhi’s Mahipalpur.

This is the first death sentence handed down in a case probed by a special investigation team (SIT) after a fresh inquiry into the cases was ordered by the Centre three years ago. Before Singh, another man Kishori was awarded the death penalty in seven cases by a trial court in 1996. The Supreme Court later commuted the sentence to life imprisonment in 1999, according to senior advocate HS Phoolka.

Following inputs from intelligence agencies that the two convicts could be attacked on the court premises, additional sessions judge Ajay Pandey on Tuesday held the proceedings inside Tihar jail. Singh was awarded the death penalty. The court sentenced Sehrawat to life imprisonment besides imposing a fine of ₹34 lakh each on the two convicts. The court said that ₹20 lakh each would be paid as compensation to the family members of the Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh.

“For the offence of murder under section 302 Indian Penal Code [IPC], the conduct and unreformed character of convict Yashpal demands rarest of rare penalty.... The conduct and condition of convict Naresh Sehrawat, suggest that his case is not a case where death penalty is the only alternative,” the court said.

The two men were convicted in one of the eight cases reopened by the Delhi police SIT constituted in 2015.

Out of the remaining seven cases, the SIT has filed a charge sheet in four cases, while it is still investigating three cases.

In one of the three cases, the accused is senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. The judge held that the offence as well as the culpability of both the convicts falls within the category of ‘rarest of rare’ cases. “They being the influential neighbours of the victims, without any provocation, caused horrendous crime of murder and looting in order to eliminate all five victims [three were injured] just because of their faith, community or religion,” the judge said. Seventy-one year old Santokh Singh, the complainant and brother of Hardev Singh, said, “It is a big victory for humanity. We are satisfied with the judgment though we wanted court to award deaths to both the convicts.”

Appearing for the state, additional public prosecutor Surinder Kain submitted that this was a pre-planned attack and sought death penalty for both convicts.

“Singh was further involved in leading the mob to the house where the victims had hidden themselves. He was further key in exposing the victims to the rioting mob....,” the judge said in the 45-page order, noting that Sehrawat had brought kerosene from the bus to kill the victims.

Additional DCP, Kumar Gyanesh, also a member of the SIT, said, “This judgment will go a long way in restoring the faith of people in judiciary, police and criminal justice system...” The judge said the convicts were “the key in creating the common object of mob psychology and to instil the feeling of revenge and fury in the mob”. The sentence was welcomed by Punjab CM Amarinder Singh and SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal. “Justice has finally been meted out to the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. Hope others involved in the attacks are also soon brought to book...” the CM tweeted.

First Published: Nov 20, 2018 16:57:11


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