The Asian Age – HC seeks SIT’s reply on 1984 riot convict’s sentence suspension plea

The SIT is investigating nearly 60 cases related to the riots, while it has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases.

New Delhi – India, 25 April 2019. The Delhi High Court has sought Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) response on a plea by a convict, who was awarded life term in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, who has interim suspension of his sentence on medical ground.

It asked the jail superintendent to give a report on the convict Naresh Sehrawat’s medical condition. It asked the (SIT) and the state to respond to the convict’s plea in which he claimed that his liver was 90 per cent damaged and sought interim suspension of the sentence.

The SIT has been asked to verify the documents given by Sehrawat in support of his medical condition.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 1. A trial court had awarded life term to Sherawat in a case related to the killing of two men in New Delhi during the 1984 riots, the first convictions in the cases reopened by the SIT. It had also awarded capital punishment to co-convict Yashpal Singh in the case.

The appeals of both the convicts, against their conviction and sentence by the trial court as well as the death reference of Yashpal, are pending in the high court.

The court had earlier issued notice to Yashpal on the reference to confirm his death sentence. The Delhi Police had closed the case in 1994 for want of evidence, but it was reopened by the SIT.

The SIT is investigating nearly 60 cases related to the riots, while it has filed “untraced report” in 52 cases.

While this was the first death penalty after the SIT was formed, one Kishori was earlier given the death penalty by a trial court in as many as seven anti-Sikh riots cases. However, the Delhi High Court confirmed death penalty only in three cases, which were later commuted to life term by the apex court.

As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the death penalty cannot be executed unless confirmed by the high court. The trial court had awarded varying jail terms to the convicts and imposed fines for offences including attempt to murder, dacoity and attacking victims by dangerous weapons.

It had spared convict Sherawat the gallows on medical grounds. The trial court had convicted Yashpal and Sherawat for killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in Mahipalpur area of South Delhi on November 1, 1984 during the riots that had taken place after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The case was lodged on a complaint by victim Hardev’s brother Santokh Singh. The trial court had held both the accused guilty for the offences of murder, attempt to murder, dacoity and voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means under the IPC.

A mob of about 500 persons, led by the two convicts, had encircled the house of the victims and had killed them. It was just one of the incidents out of several others Delhi alone witnessed during the riots that saw around 3,000 people being killed.

Of the 650 cases registered in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, 267 were closed as untraced by the Delhi Police. Of these 267 cases, five were later taken up by the CBI. The SIT also scrutinised records of 18 cancelled cases.

The Hindu – Delhi HC refuses to quash FIR against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana

New Delhi – India, 11 January 2019. The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to quash the FIR lodged against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana on bribery allegations and vacated its interim order granting him protection against criminal proceedings.

Justice Najmi Waziri also refused to quash the FIR lodged against CBI Deputy Superintendent Devender Kumar and alleged middleman Manoj Prasad.

The judge said that permission for prior sanction to prosecute Mr. Asthana and Mr. Kumar was not required considering the facts of the case.

The court directed the CBI to complete the investigation against Mr. Asthana and others within 10 weeks. It further said that the allegation of “mala fide” raised against then CBI Director Alok Verma had not been made out.

Mr. Verma and Mr. Asthana were at loggerheads for several months and levelled charges of corruption against each other.

Mr. Asthana was booked on charges of criminal conspiracy, corruption and criminal misconduct under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana, on whose complaint the FIR was lodged, had alleged having paid bribe to get relief in a case. Mr. Sana had also made allegations of corruption, extortion, high-handedness and serious malpractice against Mr. Asthana.

NDTV – Probe Into Sajjan Kumar’s role in 1984 riots “tainted”, High Court told

New Delhi – India, 16 October 2018. The CBI on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that the police investigation into the alleged role of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case was “tainted” as it had tried to favour the politician.

The submission by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was made before a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel which was also told by the agency that the police kept in “hibernation” the FIRs lodged during the riots in the hope that the affected people will reconcile and settle the matter.

Senior advocate R S Cheema, the special public prosecutor for CBI, said the probe by Delhi Police was “tainted” as “FIRs were kept in hibernation, hoping that people would reconcile and settle the matter”.

He made the submissions before the bench as he concluded arguments on behalf of the agency.

Retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, Girdhari Lal and two others were held guilty in a case relating to the murder of five members of a family in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, during the riots that followed the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Sajjan Kumar was acquitted in the case by the trial court against which both the CBI and the victims’ family have appealed in the high court. The trial court had awarded life term to Bhagmal, Khokhar and Girdhari Lal and a three-year jail term to two others, former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar.

They also moved the high court challenging their conviction and the sentence awarded by the trial court in May 2013.

Senior advocate H S Phoolka, appearing for the victims, also concluded his arguments in which he has contended that Kumar has always been in a “position of influence” which he has “enjoyed with impunity” to “thwart the investigation”.

In his written submissions placed before the court, Mr Phoolka has claimed that there were some charge sheets which initially named Kumar as an accused in some 1984 riots cases, but the police never filed the charge sheet and kept them in its files.

In one case where a victim/complainant had named Kumar, the police dropped his name and filed the charge sheet against the other accused, the senior advocate has said.

Mr Phoolka said that another example of Kumar’s influence was seen in how the government rejected a recommendation made in 2005 by a commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge G T Nanavati, to register an FIR against the Congress leader in connection with 1984 riots.

“Given the influence of the accused and the impunity enjoyed by him, witnesses or victims could not be reasonably expected to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones by on their own approaching the authorities till they were assured of their safety,” the lawyer said.

Arguments on behalf of Kumar would commence from October 22.

The Asian Age – Setback to Pune cops: Delhi HC ends activist Gautam Navlakha’s house arrest

The Delhi HC also quashed trial court’s transit remand order which he had challenged before matter was taken to SC.

New Delhi – India, 1 October 2018. The Delhi High Court on Monday allowed Gautam Navlakha, one of the five rights activists arrested in connection with Koregaon-Bhima case, to be freed from house arrest.

The High Court granted him the relief saying that the Supreme Court last week had given him the liberty to approach the appropriate forum within four weeks to seek relief, which he has availed.

The High Court also quashed the trial court’s transit remand order which he had challenged before the matter was taken to the apex court.

The court said Navlakha’s detention has exceeded 24 hours which was “untenable”

The Hindu – Raids on activists: Maharashtra police had no answers in courtroom

Reasons for arrest not specified, all documents in Marathi: Bench

Soibam Rocky Singh

New Delhi – India, 28 August 2018. With the Maharashtra police unable to explain the specific offence for detaining journalist and social activist Gautam Navlakha, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday ordered that he should not be taken away from the capital till it heard the case on Wednesday.

The High Court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Mr Navlakha by his advocate Warisha Farasat after his arrest by the Maharashtra police.

Mr Navlakha was arrested from a residence in South Delhi’s Nehru Enclave by a Maharashtra Police team from Pune on Tuesday afternoon. He was produced before a local court in Saket that allowed the police to take him and produce him before a local court in Pune.

The Bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel said the documents submitted by the Maharashtra police while seeking the transit remand did not clearly specify why Mr Navlakha was detained.

When Bench asked the Maharasthra police official, who was present in the courtroom, “what is the specific allegation” against Mr Navlakha, the official could not give any clear answer.

Not satisfied with the response, the Bench said it was “not possible to make out from the document (submitted by the Maharashtra police) what precisely was the case against the petitioner (Mr Navlakha)”.

As a result, the High Court stayed the local court order granting permission to the Maharashtra police to take him to Pune.

During the brief hearing, advocate Nithya Ramakrishnan, appearing for the activist, said he was not present at the event in question (Elgar Parishad in Pune) and the search at his residence here had not yielded objectionable material.

Provisions disregarded

She also contended that the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code regarding search and arrest were not followed as the warrants were in Marathi, which Mr Navlakha could not understand, and the grounds for the action were not given in writing.

The petition was first mentioned before a Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao by Mr Navlakha’s lawyers for urgent listing. When urgent listing was allowed, the lawyers approached the Bench of Justices Muralidhar and Goel, having the roster for habeas corpus cases, which issued an interim order that the petitioner be not taken out of the State.

The Bench also questioned how the Maharashtra police was able to receive a transit remand order from the local court within half an hour of Mr Navlakha’s arrest on Tuesday afternoon.

Questioning why witnesses were brought from Pune to authenticate the arrest, the court said that under the law, witnesses were supposed to be local persons from the area where an individual was being arrested.

The Bench said Mr Navlakha would remain at his residence here under police guard.

The High Court will take up Mr Navlakha’s plea as the first case on Wednesday. – 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Where was the state machinery, asks Delhi High Court

New Delhi – India, 14 July 2018. The court was hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s plea against the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in one of the cases.

The Delhi High Court on Friday asked what the state machinery was doing when one of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots took place next to the Delhi cantonment area. Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra said the court would not have been hearing these cases if they had been properly dealt with earlier.

“What was the state machinery doing? The incidents happened right next to the Delhi Cantonment,” the judges said.
They made the observation while hearing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s appeal against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal. A trial court acquitted Kumar, who was accused of murdering five members of a Sikh family in Raj Nagar on November 1, 1984.

On July 5, the Supreme Court made similar observations. “It is high time cases like this should be tried and adjudicated at the earliest,” Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan had said.

During the hearing on Friday, Kumar’s counsel Amit Sibal said the Justice GT Nanavati Commission had not directed authorities to re-investigate the case.

But, CBI counsel DP Singh and senior advocate Harvinder Singh Phoolka, who represented the riot victims, contradicted Sibal and said the Parliament had decided to investigate these cases again.

In May 2013, the trial court sentenced former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired Naval officer Captain Bhagmal and Girdhari Lal to life in prison while former MLA Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar got three-year jail terms each.

All of them have challenged their conviction and jail terms. The CBI, on the other hand, has asked the court to increase their sentences. The agency said all of them had engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”.

The High Court will take up the matter again on July 19.