In a relief to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims, the Supreme Court on Wednesday (Jan 10) decided to set up its own three-member special investigation team (SIT) to probe 186 cases not investigated further by the Union government’s SIT.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said the three-member SIT would be headed by a former High Court judge and have a former IPS officer not below or who is equivalent to the rank of an IG and a serving IPS officer, all available in Delhi.
On the government’s insistence, the Bench posted the matter for January 11, so that the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, and senior advocate H.S. Phoolka, who is appearing for the victims, could suggest names for the new special probe team.
“Regard being had to the nature of the cases, we think it appropriate that a fresh SIT be constituted for carrying on further investigation,” the court recorded in its order.
When the victims recalled that such an SIT had been quashed following objections that said investigation was the police’s forte and not the court’s, Chief Justice Misra said: “That is history. This is we [Supreme Court] who are doing it.”
The decision to form a new SIT was based on a confidential report placed on record on December 11, 2017 by an apex court-appointed supervisory committee of former Supreme Court judges, Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and J.M. Panchal.
This committee was tasked with vetting the investigation into 241 anti-Sikh riots cases closed by the government’s SIT. These 186 cases are a part of those cases.
On August 16 last year, the court decided to independently examine the investigation records of the 241 cases and confirm that there was nothing more to do on them.
Death of 3,325 people
A total of 3,325 people were killed in the 1984 riots. Delhi alone accounted for 2,733 deaths, while the rest occurred in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other States.
The government SIT was set up on February 12, 2015, following a recommendation by the Justice (retd.) G.P. Mathur committee. It was headed by Pramod Asthana, an IPS officer of 1986 batch and comprised retired district and sessions judge Rakesh Kapoor and additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police Kumar Gyanesh.
The SIT questioned Congress leader Sajjan Kumar thrice and asked him questions about the allegations that he instigated a mob in Janakpuri on November 1, 1984, which led to the killing of two Sikhs — Sohan Singh and his son-in-law, Avtar Singh.
The Centre had told the court that out of a total 293 cases investigated by the SIT, closure reports were filed for 241 cases.