More than 3,000 people were killed in Delhi during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Image Credit: Gulf news archives

New Delhi: The Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by retired Delhi High Court judge Justice S.N. Dhingra, which has probed 186 cases of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, has raised critical and unsettling observations on the acquittal of accused and conduct of trial in the cases. In 7 FIRs tried by Additional Sessions Judge S.S. Bal, all accused were acquitted, and trial in one FIR by another judge also resulted in the same.

In the recommendation, the report said: “After careful study of the judgements given by the trial courts, the Committee recommends exploring the possibility of filing appeal along with application for condonation of delay against the orders of acquittal in file numbers 90, 179, 193, 194 and 196 (which contain the list of FIRs).”

According to Justice Dhingra, Bal was the special judge to conduct the trial on the riot cases, but he acquitted the accused in the cases connected with seven 7 FIRs. Therefore, the Committee recommended a re-look in these cases.

“None of the judgements on record show that judges were alive to the situation of 1984 riots and to the fact that for delay in lodging FIRs and statement of witnesses, the victims were not responsible”, said the report.

Also, the affidavit of many victims stated that they went to the police, as they were not able to get FIRs recorded, “and the police only recorded statements of loss of property by looting and burning.”

The report made scathing remarks on the conduct of the trial. “The judge conducting the trial, having ample powers under section 165 of the Evidence Act to ask questions to the witnesses, did not bother to ask the witness as to who out of the accused persons present in the court were involved in the riots,” said the report.

Citing the acquittals in cases tried by judge Bal, the report said after careful scrutiny of these cases, the SIT “is of the opinion that the state should have preferred appeals against the judgements in these cases. However, the state should now explore the possibility of filing appeal.”

The SIT also brought on record a hard reality, though it prefers appeal on the acquittal, but in the backdrop of 25-year delay in acquittals, it seems a remote possibility. Bal used to sit at Kakardooma court and Patiala court to conduct trials in these cases.

In an FIR 425/84 registered at Delhi Cantonment police station, the appeal is recommended against the order of acquittal in the judgement delivered on August 8, 1986 by Additional Sessions Judge S.P. Chaudhari.