SIT report on 1984 riots submitted in top court

The special investigation team set up on the Supreme Court’s orders to probe 186 cases from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi has completed its investigation. The SIT had been constituted on the directions of a three-judge bench led by the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in January 2018. This had been done on a petition filed by a riot victim Gurlad Singh Kahlon. The SIT had taken up the probe into the cases that had been closed by the police. The SIT, headed by former Delhi high court judge, Justice SN Dhingra, was to have three members. But it was permitted to function with two members after one, retired IPS officer Rajdeep Singh, declined to be a part of the exercise. IPS officer Abhishek Dular was the second member apart from Justice Dhingra.

Large-scale riots had broken out in the national capital in the aftermath of the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh security guards on the morning of October 31, 1984. The violence had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone according to government estimates. Some senior politicians, many of them from the Congress, were accused of inciting violence and fomenting tensions.  In December 2018, the Delhi High Court had convicted former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar for his role in the riots and sentenced him to life imprisonment. His appeal is pending in Supreme Court.

The Centre had also sought the Supreme Court’s permission to disband a special investigation team (SIT), headed by former Delhi High Court judge Justice S N Dhingra, saying it has completed its probe into 186 cases of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.   The SIT, also comprising retired IPS officer Rajdeep Singh and serving 2006 batch IPS officer Abhishek Dular, was set up by the apex court on January 11 last year to supervise further investigation into 186 riots cases, in which closure reports were filed earlier. The SIT presently has only two members as Singh had declined to be a part of the team on “personal grounds”.

During the hearing, the Centre placed the SIT’s final report in a sealed cover before a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant.  Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told the bench that since the SIT has done its work and submitted its final report, the team should be discharged now. Pinky Anand, the Centre’s senior law officer, handed over the special team’s report in a sealed cover to the top court and requested that the team headed by a retired high court judge be discharged. The court has taken the report on record and adjourned the case for two weeks.

Appearing for victims, senior counsel HS Phoolka opposed the request to disband the SIT before the court examines the SIT report. He told the bench that the court should first examine the SIT’s final report and see if anything more was required to be done by the team before taking a decision on whether to disband it. He also asked for a copy of the report to be supplied to him.  Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said the report is in sealed cover and only for the perusal of the court.

The bench, after taking on record the SIT’s report, said it would hear the matter after two weeks. Earlier in March, the top court had granted two more months to the SIT to complete its probe into 186 riot cases after the SIT informed it that more than 50 per cent of work was done and it wanted two more months to complete the investigation.