Potential Trouble for Congress as SC directs reinvestigation of 1984 riot cases

Congress Party leaders could find themselves attracting unwelcome attention and scrutiny after the Supreme Court today decided to order a reinvestigation of 186 cases out of the 241 cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Out of the 241 cases, 42 are related to riots.

The move follows a recommendation to the effect by a supervisory committee comprising Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan that was formed to scrutinize the Special Investigation Team’s decision to close 199 cases in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

The Narendra Modi government had set up the original special investigation team, but the SIT had closed these cases. There have been allegations that the SIT — set up as the fulfillment of an election promise by Modi — did not conduct as thorough a probe as was desired by the victims.

Some leaders of the Congress Party have been accused of playing a part in the riots.

The two-judge committee’s report was opened in Court today by a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India. The report suggested that 186 out of the 241 cases closed by the special investigation team should be re-investigated.

The committee was formed on 16 August after hearing a PIL filed by the Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee member S. Gurlad Singh Kahlon seeking speedy justice to the victims of 1984 riots.

The riots took place in the aftermath of the killing of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Gandhi had attracted the ire of conservative Sikhs by her decision to storm the Golden Temple at Amritsar to nab separatist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

The Supreme Court said it will form the committee — headed by an ex-High Court judge — today, and has asked parties, including the center, for suggestions. The committee will have a retired high-ranking police official and sitting police officials.

This is one of the rare cases where a body headed by a former judge will go beyond ‘fact finding’ and into the investigational and prosecutional aspects of delivering justice.

“We have always maintained that successive Congress governments have been shielding their leaders,” said Shiromani Akali Dal leader Naresh Gujral.

“The Sikhs have to find closure. Till now, they have not found closure,” he added.