Supreme Court grants bail to 33 people in anti-Sikh riots case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to 33 people convicted for rioting, burning houses and violation of curfew in Trilokpuri area of the national capital during 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, granted relief to the accused persons on their appeal challenging a Delhi high court order by which they were convicted and sentenced to five-year jail term in the case.

“Taking into account the period of custody suffered and the period for which the accused-appellants have been sentenced, we are of the view that the accused-appellants should be enlarged on bail to the satisfaction of the learned trial court,” the bench said.

Earlier, the apex court had issued notices to the authorities on the appeals of 34 persons against the HC order upholding the trial court verdict to convict them. One of the appellants died recently in jail. The convicts, who have filed appeals through lawyer Vishnu Jain, are seeking acquittal on various grounds including that of parity in view of the apex court’s April 30 order by which seven co-convicts were let off for want of evidence.

“We unhesitatingly take the view that what can be said to be established by the prosecution against the accused-appellants at the utmost and at best is that they were arrested, but that by itself will not make the accused-appellants liable for the offences alleged.

“The present one really is a case of no evidence and, therefore, we will have no good ground to sustain the order of the High Court which is hereby set aside,” the apex court had said while acquitting seven convicts in the case.

The top court had held that it could not be proved that the accused indulged in offences like rioting, burning houses and violation of curfew. Earlier, the high court had upheld the conviction of 70 out of the 89 people who were awarded a five-year jail term by a trial court for rioting, burning houses and violation of curfew during the riots.

Of the remaining 19 people, 16 died during pendency of their appeals against the trial court’s August 27, 1996, decision. The appeals of three others were dismissed after they absconded, the high court noted in its judgment.

The high court had dismissed the appeals, which were pending for the last 22 years, and had asked the convicts to surrender forthwith to serve their remaining prison terms for rioting, looting and burning houses in various residential blocks in Trilok Puri between October 31 and November 3 in 1984.

The riots broke out after the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards. Around 3,000 people died during the anti-Sikh riots that followed.

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