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1984 riots case: 1 let off

NEW DELHI: An accused in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case in which a mob had set Gurdwara Pulbangash on fire, killing three persons, has been acquitted for lack of evidence by a trial court which said that CBI failed to establish his presence on the spot.

The court let off Suresh Kumar alias Panewala in the 30-year-old case saying CBI’s case was “very, very weak” and the agency’s “best witnesses could not identify Kumar”.

The name of senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler had also cropped up in the case but CBI said there was no sufficient proof against him. Later, the court ordered further investigation into Tytler’s role and the matter is pending. Acquitting Kumar, additional sessions judge Sanjay Bansal noted that there was discrepancy in the identity of the accused. Criticizing CBI for its probe, the court said that the case record revealed that the prosecution itself was not clear about the correct name of the rioter.

“Such is state of affairs that it is extremely impossible to conclude as to what actually is the correct name of the rioter. It must be held that the prosecution has a very, very, weak case. It has not proved the charges beyond reasonable doubt against the accused,” the court said.

The court rejected the arguments of the CBI prosecutor that in the report of Justice Nanavati Commission, which was set up to probe riots related cases, the name of Suresh Panewala was mentioned. The judge did not rely on the statements recorded before Nanavati Commission, saying that could not be considered evidence as those making them were not examined as witnesses. The case was transferred from Delhi Police to CBI in 2005 after Nanavati Commission’s report.

The judge did not rely on account of Harminder Singh, an eyewitness and a crucial prosecution witness as he wasn’t crossexamined, having died during trial. “In his statement recorded before a magistrate, late S Harminder Singh stated that one Suresh Kumar Panewala was one of the rioters and he could identify him. Unfortunately, this witness died before he could be examined in the court. What value should be given to such statement? In such circumstances, it will be highly unsafe to give a finding of guilt solely on the basis of such untested statement. Judicial conscience does not allow it,” the court said.

1984 RiotsRegarding Tytler, the court said, “The CBI was directed (last year) to further investigate the case. The matter is still under further investigation with respect to Tytler”. The case relates to an incident on November 1, 1984, in the aftermath of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The mob of over 1,000 persons had set afire Gurdwara Pulbangash in north Delhi, killing three persons—Sardar Thakur Singh, Badal Singh and Gurcharan Singh.

Citing discrepancies in the statements of prosecution witnesses, the court said the witnesses have either not taken the name of the rioter or if they have named him, they have not identified the accused as the said person.

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