1984 riots: Court pulls up CBI over Verma's statement

The court asked the investigating officer (IO) to file within 15 days a report on the lapses in the probe pointed out during the hearing and posted the matter for further hearing on December 20. (File Image)

A Delhi Court on Monday pulled up the CBI for delay in recording of statements of controversial arms dealer Abhishek Verma, who is a witness in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which Congress leader Jagdish Tytler is an accused.

The court asked the investigating officer (IO) to file within 15 days a report on the lapses in the probe pointed out during the hearing and posted the matter for further hearing on December 20.

"Thirty-five years after the incident whereby citizens of this country were burnt alive, the investigating agencies have tried to show that they will ensure justice to the victims. The record, which reflects the conduct of the agencies, in my view, speaks otherwise," Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Harjyot Singh Bhalla said.

The CMM asked why, even though 35 years have elapsed since the incident and directions for further investigation have been passed many times and witnesses have come forward after much hesitation and efforts, the investigating agency is satisfied with the statement under section 161 (recording of witnesses' statements) of the CrPC which is neither signed by the witness (Verma), over which the witness has no control and which is of little evidentiary value.

"Why does the investigator not want the witness to depose under section 164 of CrPC under which statement is recorded by a Magistrate and duly signed and definitely can be considered at a higher pedestal when compared to a statement under section 161 of CrPC?" the court asked.

The court noted that despite an order passed on December 4, 2015 to conduct a polygraphy test of Verma, who is a witness in the case, the CBI could not conduct the test for the next three years and it was finally conducted on December 4, 2018.

After going through a purported letter submitted by Verma that as a witness he was threatened, the court said there was no doubt that the language of the letter clearly qualifies as an open threat of death to the witness and his family members.

"I would like to call upon the investigating officer to file a reply as to why he failed to register a separate FIR under section 195-A of CrPC (threatening any person to give false evidence) even when a copy of this letter (of threat) was placed on record and was also supplied to the prosecution including the IO or in any event, the said fact has also been mentioned in the order sheet of October 1, 2018...

"I am surprised that the IO does not seem to be concerned that the key witness received a written threat immediately before the polygraphy test was to be conducted," the judge said.

He further pointed out that the polygraphy test directed to be conducted took three years and was finally conducted immediately after the threat letter was received by the witness.

The court also sought to know from the IO that while Verma, who was already receiving some police protection then, was threatened by the alleged letter in August 2018, was it not possible for the other witnesses to feel insecure?

The case pertains to the riots at Gurudwara Pulbangash in North Delhi where three people were killed on November 1, 1984, a day after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, who has denied any role in the riots, was given a clean chit by the CBI thrice in the case, but the agency was directed by the court to further investigate the matter. The victims had filed a protest petition challenging the CBI's closure reports in the case.

The court had in December 2015 directed the CBI to further investigate the matter and decided to monitor it every two months to ensure that no aspect is left uninvestigated.

The agency had reinvestigated the case of killing of Badal Singh, Thakur Singh and Gurcharan Singh near the gurudwara after a court in December, 2007 refused to accept its closure report. The CBI has filed three closure reports in the case.

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