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No, Amit Malviya. Modi Govt’s SIT Did Not Facilitate Sajjan Kumar’s Conviction in 1984 Riots Case

In 2005, the Home Ministry handed over re-investigation into the case to CBI, implementing the recommendation of the Nanavati Commission set up in 2000.

On Monday, December 17, the Delhi High Court reversed the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case related to the murder of five members of a Sikh family — Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh — in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi. Kumar was sentenced to life imprisonment for criminal conspiracy to commit murder.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT cell head Amit Malviya was quick to falsely claim that the verdict was a result of an SIT set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Malviya tweeted:

However, the court’s verdict has no relation to a Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Modi government. The Delhi High Court’s judgement specifically cites the recommendations of the Nanavati Commission, which was set up in 2000 and submitted its report in 2005. The judgement notes that on October 24, 2005, the secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs wrote a letter to the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The letter read, “In reply to the discussion held in the Lok Sabha on 10th August 2005 and the Rajya Sabha on 11th August 2005 on the Report of Justice Nanavati Commission of Inquiry into 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister had given an assurance that wherever the Commission has named any specific individuals as needing further examination or re-opening of case the Government will take all possible steps to do so within the ambit of law.”

In 2005, then UPA government implemented the recommendation of the Nanavati Commission and ordered CBI to re-investigate Sajjan Kumar’s case, “It has been decided by the Government that the work of conducting further investigation/reinvestigation against (a) Shri Dharam Das Shastri, (b) Shri Jagdish Tytler, and (c) Shri Sajjan Kumar as per the recommendations of the Justice Nanavati Commission should be entrusted to the CBI,” read the secretary’s letter dated October 24, 2005.

The Delhi HC’s judgement notes, “Consequently, the investigation of the matter was entrusted to the CBI and, on 22nd November 2005, RC No.SI-1/2005/S0024 was registered at PS Delhi Cantonment.”

The CBI then filed a chargesheet on January 10, 2010, naming Sajjan Singh as an accused. “Subsequently, charges were framed by the trial Court on 24th May 2010 in the manner referred to hereinabove. The examination of prosecution witnesses commenced with the examination-in-chief of PW-1 on 1st July 2010,” notes Delhi HC.

In 2013, the trial court acquitted Sajjan Kumar. It is this acquittal that the Delhi HC has overturned, upholding the results of the CBI’s investigation. You can read the Delhi HC’s full judgement, here.

What about the SIT that Modi government set up in 2015? 

In 2014, H.S. Phoolka, senior advocate who has been fighting for the victims of the 1984 riots and appeared on behalf of the complainants in Sajjan Kumar’s case before the Delhi HC, wrote an open letter to PM Modi, requesting that an SIT be set up to re-open cases, as the Nanavati Commission had recommended opening of only 4 out of the 241 cases registered with the Delhi police.

H.S. Phoolka, a senior advocate and survivor of the 1984 riots, resigned as the leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly in 2017, to pursue fighting for justice for the riot victims. Credits: Twitter/@amarpreet1313

In December 2014, the Modi government constituted a committee to examine the possibility of setting up the SIT. The move was timed just ahead of the Delhi assembly elections. In 2015, the SIT was set up. However, speaking to The Wire, Phoolka described the state of affairs, “..the SIT did not start work for over six months, later it said there was sufficient evidence for trial in just 12 cases and closed 186 cases compelling the Supreme Court to constitute a new one to re-investigate these cases.”

In August 2017, the Supreme Court noted that the SIT set up by Modi govt had “not done further investigation in respect of 186 cases” and therefore, the court said that “a fresh SIT should be constituted for carrying on the further investigation.” In January 2018, a new SIT was set up by the court to look into re-opening the cases.

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