The shadow of 1984: Sajjan Kumar’s conviction

Sajjan Kumar’s conviction reignites hope of substantial justice for riot victims

Five years ago, there wasn’t even a sliver of hope that any influential(प्रभावशाली/प्रभावी) Congress leader would bebrought(लाना) to justice for the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. A trial court(निचली अदालत) had acquitted(बरी कर दिया) former MP Sajjan Kumar, rejecting the testimony(गवाही/साक्ष्य) of witnesses(गवाहों/सबूत) who said he was seen instigating(भड़काने/उत्तेजित करना) riots(दंगों/अव्यवस्था) in the Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment on November 1, 1984, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination(हत्या). In reversing the acquittal(निर्दोष ) and sentencing(फ़ैसला सुनाना/सज़ा देना) Kumar toimprisonment (कारावास/जेल)for the remainder(शेष) of his life, the Delhi High Court has reignited(फिर से ताजा) hope forsubstantial(ठोस) justice. The 207-page judgment by a Division Bench, comprising(शामिल ) Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel, is proof, if any were needed, that the Delhi Police and its Riot Cell had failed to carry out a genuine(वास्तविक ) investigation(जांच). From the deliberate(जानबूझकर ) failure to record any untoward incident in the station’s daily register toavoiding(टालना/परहेज) the examination of key witnesses, there is a long trail of evidence(सबूत ) that points a damning(घातक)finger at the police and the state machinery. This case is an example not only of the slowness of judicial processes but also ofderailed(पटरी से उतार दिया/अड़चन डालना)investigations. It was only after the Central Bureau of Investigation entered the scene and revived(पुनर्जीवित ) this particular case related to the murder of five members of a Sikh family in 2005 — based on arecommendation(सिफ़ारिश करना) by the Nanavati Commission — that the investigation made meaningful progress.

The entire CBI case turned on the testimony of Jagdish Kaur, who is described(वर्णित) by the High Court as a “fearless and truthful witness”, and its corroboration by two others. Her deposition (बयान/उलट देना)was sought to be impeached(दोषी ठहराना ) on the ground that she had not named Sajjan Kumar before the Ranganath Misra Commission. As it turned out, she may actually have done so, in Punjabi; the English version of her statement did not have it. In addition(अतिरिक्त,), the court found that Kumar had been named in nearly a dozen affidavits(हलफनामे) in 1985 itself, but none had been investigated. In one case, a prepared charge sheet had not been filed in court. Such was his influence(प्रभाव/असर) that in 1990 when the CBI went to arrest him, the officers were held hostage until an anticipatory(अग्रिम) bail order was obtained( प्राप्त की,), even as their vehicles were burnt by his supporters outside his house. The 73-year-old former strongman may now pin his hopes on an appeal to the Supreme Court, but there is little doubt that judicial decisions such as this reinforce the hope that political patronage(सहायता/सरपरस्ती), administrative complicity(सहभागिता) and plain muscle power cannot prevail(प्रबल ) over the truth all the time. The court has also flagged the need for a separate(अलग ) law for punishment for crimes against humanity and genocide(नरसंहार), both seen so far as part of international law but rarely invoked(लागू) in domestic(घरेलू ) crimes. Given the major communal flashpoints in recent history that have been cited by the court, the issue is worth positive(सकारात्मक ) consideration(विचार).


Important Vocabulary

1. Influential(प्रभावशाली/प्रभावी) 
Synonyms: authoritative, dominant, famous, important, leading
Antonyms: inconspicuous, inferior, insignificant, obscure, subordinate

2. Acquitted(बरी कर दिया)
Synonyms: absolve, clear, discharge, exonerate, free
Antonyms: accuse, blame, charge, condemn, convict

3. Instigating(भड़काने/उत्तेजित करना) 
Synonyms: abet, bring about, foment, incite, inflame
Antonyms: deter, discourage, dissuade, halt, neglect

4. Riots(दंगों/अव्यवस्था)
Synonyms: anarchy, brawl, disturbance, lawlessness, protest
Antonyms: calm, order, peace, tranquility, agreement

5. Comprising(शामिल ) 
Synonyms: amount to, compose, constitute, contain, cover
Antonyms: abandon, destroy, exclude, neglect, ruin

6. Imprisonment (कारावास/जेल)
Synonyms: captivity, confinement, custody, incarceration, isolation
Antonyms: freedom, liberation, liberty, discharge, liberating

7. Damning(घातक)
Synonyms: incriminating, damnatory, fatal, ruinous

8. Revived(पुनर्जीवित )
Synonyms: refreshed, rehabilitated, recovered, reestablished, returned

9. Genuine(वास्तविक )
Synonyms: absolute, bona fide, certain, honest, legitimate
Antonyms: doubtful, dubious, indefinite, questionable, uncertain

10. Affidavits(हलफनामे)
Synonyms: oath, testimony, affirmation, sworn statement

11. Sentencing(फ़ैसला सुनाना/सज़ा देना) 
Synonyms: blame, condemn, confine, convict, imprison
Antonyms: exonerate, free, let go, liberate, pardon

12. Revived(पुनर्जीवित )
Synonyms: refreshed, rehabilitated, recovered, reestablished, returned

13. Deposition (बयान/उलट देना)
Synonyms: impeachment, removal, degradation, discharge, dismissal
Antonyms: employment, hiring, retention

14. Impeached(दोषी ठहराना )
Synonyms: accuse, arraign, criticize, discredit, indict
Antonyms: absolve, exonerate, praise, answer, approve

15. Complicity(सहभागिता)
Synonyms: collaboration, collusion, connivance, guilt, involvement
Antonyms: ignorance, innocence, noninvolvement, refusal

16. Genocide(नरसंहार),
Synonyms: carnage, holocaust, mass murder, massacre, slaughter

17. Patronage(सहायता/सरपरस्ती),
Synonyms: aegis, auspices, backing, encouragement, financing,
Antonyms: attack, blockage, disapproval, discouragement, harm


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