CBI gives Tytler clean chit in 1984 riots case, Sikhs protest (Lead)

April 2nd, 2009 - 2:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) Congress’ Lok Sabha candidate Jagdish Tytler was Thursday cleared by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a case registered against him for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, prompting protests by upset Sikhs outside the court.
De-sealing its final report in the case in a court here, the CBI pleaded that the case against Tytler, the Congress’ candidate from the Delhi North East constituency, be cancelled.

The agency had last week submitted the report in a sealed envelope before Metropolitan Magistrate Ram Lal Meena. The CBI had filed its final report after examining Jasbir Singh, a California-based witness it had earlier declared non-traceable, who had stated in an affidavit that on Nov 3, 1984, he had overheard Tytler commenting on the killing of Sikhs in his then-constituency Sadar Bazar.

The victims’ lawyer H.S. Phoolka submitted before the court that he wanted to inspect the final report. After hearing him, the court asked the CBI to give its reply by April 9.

Reacting strongly to the CBI’s clean chit, Phoolka, who has spearheaded one of the longest and most tortuous legal battles to gain justice for the victims of the 1984 riots, said the verdict was “upsetting”.

“It is upsetting. Ever since the case went to the CBI, the agency has been eager to give Tytler a clean chit. We will not give up our fight yet. Money and political muscle will not last long,” said Phoolka.

“It is sad to see that even before the seal of the final report was opened, Tytler knew that he had got a clean chit.”

More than 3,000 people, including 2,000 in the national capital alone, were killed in the riots that targeted the Sikh community in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on Oct 31, 1984.

As the CBI decision was made public, hundreds of Sikhs who had gathered outside the court premises began protesting. They raised slogans against the Congress government, the CBI and Tytler as well as other senior Congress leaders like Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath for their alleged involvement in the riots.

“It’s a shameful act on the part of CBI and with this our faith in this investigation agency has been shattered. The CBI is working hand in glove with the accused,” said an aggrieved victim outside the court.

Tytler was among the three prominent Congress leaders accused of having incited mobs. The two other leaders named were Sajjan Kumar, who is contesting from South Delhi, and the late H.K.L. Bhagat.

The timing of the clean chit - just before the general elections - may raise questions about government interference.

A day before the verdict, Tytler had exuded confidence at a press conference.

“The Sikh vote has never been a problem. They have never voted against me - there is no question of the 1984 riots and the allegations against me,” said Tytler.

“I have been around the longest in parliament from Delhi!…This will not tarnish my image - I can guarantee that every effort will be made to ensure development in my constituency.”

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