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Cong buries the Sikh massacre again

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Govt turns law on its head to shield Cong’s very own

Cong buries the Sikh massacre again

Nanavati on Sikh riots: Judge spares Congress and Centre, slams Tytler and Sajjan but Govt steps in to say no action is needed


Posted online: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 at 0200 hours IST

NEW DELHI, AUGUST 8: Twenty years after hundreds of Sikhs were massacred in the Capital, a judicial inquiry has for the first time given a finding that Congress leaders were involved in it.

The Justice G T Nanavati Commission, which was set up in 2000 to undo the ‘‘whitewash’’ by the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission in 1986, has indicted, among others, a minister in the Manmohan Singh Government, Jagdish Tytler, and Congress MP from the Outer Delhi constituency, Sajjan Kumar.

But, having waited till the last permissible day to table the Nanavati Commission’s report in Parliament, the Government today rejected the finding against Tytler on a ground that is bound to trigger a legal controversy.

The Commission concluded that there was ‘‘credible evidence against Jagdish Tytler to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organizing attacks on Sikhs.’’

In its action taken report (ATR), the Government however interpreted these carefully chosen words to mean that ‘‘the Commission itself was not absolutely sure about his involvement in such attacks.’’

And then, turning Indian jurisprudence on its head, the Government claimed that ‘‘in criminal cases, a person cannot be prosecuted simply on the basis of ‘probability.’’

This flies in the face of the fact that cases are registered—and even charges are framed—on the basis of probability. It is only at the stage of conviction does the system insist upon charges being proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Brushing aside the Commission’s recommendation to look into the allegations against Tytler and ‘‘take further action as may be found necessary,’’ the Government said that ‘‘any further action will not be justified.’’

The Government similarly stonewalled the recommendation to re-open seven of the cases against Sajjan Kumar. Two of those cases, it said, did not relate to the riots at all. In four other cases, the Government said ‘‘it will not be just to reopen’’ them as no fresh material has been produced before the Commission. It is only in one out of those cases did the Government agree to ‘‘look into the factual position’’ and take ‘‘appropriate action.’’

Two other Congress leaders figuring prominently in the Nanavati Commission report are Kamal Nath and H K L Bhagat. But neither figures in the ATR for different reasons: Kamal Nath because of the Commission’s finding that ‘‘in the absence of better evidence’’ it was not possible to say that he had instigated a mob and Bhagat because of his physical and mental condition in recent years.

The very fact that the allegations against various Congress leaders was either confirmed or left open by the Nanavati Commission in various degrees marks a major advance for the victims of the 1984 carnage.

This is because the Ranganath Misra Commission set up six months after the massacre gave a clean chit to the Congress party and its leaders, specifically including Bhagat. Any participation from the Congress camp, it said, was limited to party workers.

But the Nanavati Commission, having indicted some of the Congress leaders from Delhi, said that a ‘‘large number of affidavits indicate that local Congress(I) leaders and workers had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking Sikhs.’’

The Commission tempered this much awaited finding with a disclaimer. ‘‘There is absolutely no evidence suggesting that Rajiv Gandhi or any other high ranking Congress (I) leader had suggested or organized attacks on Sikhs.’’

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