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1st death penalty for anti-Sikh riots

1st death penalty for anti-Sikh riots
November 20
20:16 2018

Family members of the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots celebrate outside the Patiala House Court in New Delhi on November 20, after the pronouncement of the first death punishment in the case

India Post News Service
NEW DELHI: In the very first capital punishment in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, a Delhi court has awarded death penalty to convict Yashpal Singh for killing two men and injuring three others, and life term to co-convict Naresh Sherawat in the same case.
Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Pandey sentenced transporter Yashpal Singh to death for murdering Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh by setting them on fire in the riots that followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. Retired postmaster Naresh Sehrawat, who was also convicted in the case, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Both the convicts are in their 50s.

The two were also convicted for injuring Surjeet Singh, Sangat Singh and Kuldeep Singh. Soon after the verdict, the two were arrested and sent to jail.
The sentencing was held in the Tihar Jail due to security concerns, reported PTI. This came after Yashpal was assaulted allegedly by Delhi’s Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislator Manjinder Singh Sirsa in Patiala House Courts, after the court reserved its order on the quantum of punishment.

This was the first conviction in five of the eight cases ‚ÄĒ reopened and investigated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was constituted in 2015 ‚ÄĒ in which charge sheets were filed. Investigation into the other three cases, which, SIT members said involved Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, are still pending.
After the verdict, Kumar Gyanesh, additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police and a member of the SIT, said the conviction came on the basis of the statement of 18 witnesses, who were re-examined by the SIT besides other evidences such as medical examination reports of the victims and photographs pertaining to the crime.
The case was registered in 1993 at Vasant Kunj police station after Hardev‚Äôs brother Santok Singh filed an affidavit before the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission ‚ÄĒ formed to probe the killings.
The city police had closed the case in 1994 for want of evidence. However, the SIT reopened the case in 2016, after investigators, scrutinizing 293 cases that were earlier declared ‚Äėuntraced‚Äô or ‚Äėcancelled‚Äô, found clues pertaining to the case. The SIT finally decided to probe 60 cases, of which 52 were closed for want of evidence while eight were reopened.
The SIT members told the court that statements of Kuldeep, Sangat and Surjeet, who had survived the attack, were recorded after their whereabouts were traced. The three identified their neighbors Sehrawat and Yashpal Singh as the accused. They alleged that the two were part of the mob, which had set three grocery shops in Mahipalpur on fire on November 1, 1984.
‚ÄúThe three hid themselves in a first floor room along with Hardev and Avtar. The mob forcibly entered the room, assaulted the five men and threw them down from the first floor. They set the room on fire. Hardev and Avtar succumbed to their injuries while the other three survived. The survived victims identified Naresh as the one who was carrying a can of kerosene and Yashpal as the one who lit the fire,‚ÄĚ the SIT had said in the charge sheet.
Sikh leaders welcome verdict
Sikh leaders cutting across party lines have welcomed the verdict. Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa said they will challenge the life sentence of Sherawat and ensure that even he gets “hanged for his crimes”.
“We are satisfied with the judgment but we will keep on fighting and challenge the life sentence of one accused and ensure that even he gets “hanged for his crimes,” he told PTI.
He also said that the judgment has given witnesses a very big boost and after 34 years they finally got justice.
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief and Akali Dal leader Manjit Singh G K said the judgment will encourage other victims to come forward. “Other culprits who were hiding behind the Z plus security would be nailed down,” he said.
Sardar R P Singh, National Secretary of BJP, welcomed the decision and urged the apex court to immediately notify the name of third member of the Special Investigation Team formed to monitor further probe into anti-Sikh riots cases of 1984 mainly in Delhi and other states.Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader HS Phoolka said it was a great judgment and now the Sikh leaders are quite hopeful that in other cases also the victims would get justice.

A Sikh survivor called the judgment “a start”, saying the fight will continue till they get “complete justice” and bring all perpetuators to justice.

On November 14, the court had convicted Singh and Sherawat for killing two men here during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots ‚Äď the first conviction in the cases reopened by the SIT.
The Delhi Police had closed the case in 1994 for want of evidence. However, a Special Investigation Team on the riots reopened it.

Out of the eight cases being investigated, charge sheets have been filed in five and three, in which senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar is an accused, are pending investigation. With PTI inputs

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