Act swiftly

The Delhi lieutenant-governor’s grant of sanction to the CBI to prosecute former MP and Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is a belated but welcome move to bring to book the culprits of one of the nation’s worst communal pogroms. It is a sad commentary on the system of justice that it has taken more than 25 years to bring forward charges against a person who is said to have been responsible for many deaths. As he is a former MP, the lieutenant-governor’s sanction was necessary for prosecution. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had told parliament that he had set a deadline for a decision on prosecution of Sajjan Kumar and another Delhi Congress leader Jagdish Tytler. A case was registered against Sajjan Kumar after the GT Nanavati Commission named him in its report in 2005 but the government had sat on the sanction for prosecution.

In Tytler’s case the CBI has sought closure of all cases on the plea that there is no evidence, and the home ministry has said that there is no case pending for his prosecution. This has not convinced most people and the issue will come up again in a Delhi court next month. Both these leaders had been named Congress candidates in the last Lok Sabha election but the party dropped them following public protests. It is not only in the case of leaders that justice has failed. Though about 3,000 Sikhs are said to have been killed in the riots there have been only 21 convictions in Delhi. The reports of as many as 10 inquiry commissions have not helped to further the cause of justice.
The CBI must ensure that Sajjan Kumar’s trial and prosecution are not delayed any further. The case should be fast-tracked, lest it suffer from forced and usual judicial delays for some more years. The home minister should keep his promise to follow up the hundreds of other cases also. It is not only in bringing the guilty to book that there has been tardiness. Many people and families who were entitled to government relief have not received it. The home minister himself said the reason is ‘bureaucratic excuses.’ To give the surviving victims and the kin of the dead their rightful dues is also part of the delivery of justice.

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