Anti-Sikh riots: Phoolka offers to quit legal battle (Lead)

July 21st, 2010 - 6:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) “Hurt” by the allegation of receiving crores of rupees for personal benefit, advocate H.S. Phoolka Wednesday offered to quit the 26-year-long battle for justice to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The 54-year-old lawyer said he would continue to fight the riot victims’ cases till “alternative arrangements” were made.

In a letter to the Akal Takhat Sahib, the Amritsar-based highest religious authority of the Sikh community, Phoolka said: “It is not possible for me to continue with the cases.”

“I am conscious that my decision will have an adverse impact on the cases, but my hands are tied. An alternative arrangement be made and a decision be rendered at the earliest so that the community’s interest does not suffer,” he said.

However, realising that “even a mere delay can prove disastrous for the cases”, he assured the religious body that “till such alternative arrangements are made, I will continue with the matters”.

Phoolka’s decision follows allegation by the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Paramjit Singh Sarna and his brother Harvinder in the July 17 meeting of the committee that he had taken Rs.1.09 crore from the DSGMC.

But Phoolka, who has himself suffered at the hands of rioters who ruled Delhi’s streets for three days following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi Oct 31, 1984, denies the allegation.

“I am deeply hurt. I felt humiliated and abused. It was an attack on my integrity and record of selfless service,” Phoolka told IANS.

“I have not charged any fee for the cases or taken any kind of donation. In 1985, I was paid an amount of Rs.15,000 by DSGMC and since 1986 till today, I have neither received any money from the committee nor from any other organisation for these cases,” he said.

Terming the allegation as part of “a deep rooted conspiracy to shield (some) guilty Congress leaders”, the lawyer said: “The conspiracy is to involve me in defending myself against this malicious propaganda and distract me from these cases.”

Phoolka’s decision comes at a crucial juncture of the riots cases. Only two days ago he appeared in the Delhi High Court which upheld the murder charge against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for allegedly leading a group of rioters.

“Now, when these cases have reached their peak and Sajjan Kumar is badly caught and strong proofs are emerging against another Congress leader and union minister, at this delicate moment, they have intensified their campaign to malign me,” he alleged.

Sarna alleged that when Phoolka appeared before the Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission — set up to investigate the riots — on behalf of the victims during 2000-04, the DSGMC had spent Rs.1.09 crore on the administrative expenses incurred by his team.

“Whatever the DSGMC has spent was unavoidable and not for my personal gains,” Phoolka defended himself.

He said it was only after the Nanavati Commission probe that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had apologised for the carnage; the compensation for the families of dead victims was enhanced to Rs.10 lakh; cases against Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler were reopened and Tytler was forced to resign from a ministerial post.

“I have spent all my life for the cause and endangered my life in the process. I have never expected any reward. But today I am being repaid by having to defend and protect my integrity against false allegations levelled by Sikh leaders,” he wrote in the nearly 2,500-word letter.

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