Death for 1984 Sikh riots accused

Nearly 34 years after the anti-Sikh riots shook Delhi, a city court, in a “rarest-of-rare” judgment on Tuesday, sentenced a 55-year-old man to death and sent another to prison for life after having held them guilty last week of killing two Sikh youths, and other heinous crimes during the 1984 violence.
“The case of this kind breaks the entire fabric, trust and harmony amongst communities, thereby severely affecting the assimilation of different religious and social groups,” additional sessions judge Ajay Pandey observed.

In an unprecedented move, the order sentencing Yashpal Singh to death and Naresh Sehrawat to life imprisonment, was pronounced inside Tihar Jail due to security concerns. Earlier, the court had held the duo guilty of killing Hardev Singh, then 24, and Avatar Singh, 26. Three other men, Sangat Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Surjeet Singh, were injured in the mob attack. “The culpability of both convicts falls within the category of rarest of rare cases,” the judge held, adding that both were influential neighbours of the victims. They committed the “horrendous” crime of murder and loot to eliminate the victims without any provocation, merely on the basis of the latter’s faith, community and religion.

This was the first conviction secured by the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team, formed in 2015 to reopen Sikh carnage cases. The court also imposed fines of Rs.35 lakh each on the convicts.

The 1984 riots had led the Sikh community being “severely prejudiced” with regard to their life and livelihood, and had led to large scale migration, the judge said.

One of the grounds for Yashpal’s death penalty was the suppression of his financial status. The judge also agreed with the submission of public prosecutor S K Kain that the convicts could not now claim that they had been reformed after having escaped justice for 34 years.

Yashpal had disclosed in court that he ran a transport business in 1980s, which was shut in 2000. Ever since, he said he was dependent on his son, who had inherited ancestral property, for his livelihood. The court did not buy his claims and said, “His conduct sufficiently reflects that he does not have any repentance and is averse to the idea of grant of compensation to the helpless victims...” “He appears to be purposely hiding his income... He did not repent for the last 34 years and his mentality did not reform when he was at large. He attempted to mislead the court in order to escape his liability. His chances of reformation now are almost negligible,” the court observed.

Naresh, on the other hand, claimed to be earning Rs.1 lakh in income from rent of his immovable properties. He also showed the judge a huge surgical cut on his abdomen after a liver transplant and submitted a bunch of medical papers. The court found him “considerate” about victim compensation and took into account his health condition while deciding his sentence.

Deciding on the compensation, the judge was of the view that there was no space in hospital for accommodation and proper treatment of the victims in 1984. Kain had also pressed for “maximum financial penalty” on both convicts.

Accordingly, the court imposed a fine of Rs.35 lakh each. Out of this sum, the court directed Rs.20 lakh each to be given to the families of the two dead men and asked for the remaining Rs.30 lakh to be given to the three injured.

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