Jain Aggarwal Report
C H A P T E R - 5
Observation of the Committee with regard to Registration / non-registration of cases of cognizable offences relating to October - November 1984 riots and their comments as regards improper, faulty and perfunctory investigation with reasons noticed therefore
5.1. While examining the scrutiny reports prepared by the Superintendent of Police and duly checked by the D.I.G. (Police) attached to this Committee, the Committee was astounded and deeply perturbed to notice that in a very large number of riots cases registered at various Police Stations of Delhi, a novel pattern of registration / non-registration of cases with regard to Commission of cognizable offences had been evolved, viz., instead of registering a separate / distinct first information report with regard to each and every cognizable offence reported at the Police Stations by the aggrieved persons/ complainants, a general, vague and omnibus type of F.I.R. was recorded at the concerned Police Station on the basis of a vague report couched in general terms and signed by some police official say S.H.O. or Sub-Inspector or even Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police to the effect that during his visit to a particular locality falling within the jurisdiction of his Police Station he noticed that the law & order situation was worsening and that violent mobs duly armed with lathis, spears etc., were attacking and the business establishments / residential houses of the Sikhs and were indulging in loot and arson of their property and even committing murders of Sikhs in the locality. On the basis of such reports which were bereft of any details or particulars about any specific incident of murder, loot or arson, an omnibus F.I.R. was registered and all other subsequent reports of individual or separate incidents lodged by the aggrieved persons/complainants were linked with that omnibus F.I.R. with the result that the circumstances attending upon each and every such incident, heinous crime or gruesome murder were not incorporated in any duly registered first information report; instead such cases were linked with the omnibus F.I.R. for purpose of investigation by examining the aggrieved persons/ complainants under Section 161 Cr. P. C.
5.2. Section 154 Cr. P. C. mandates that every information relating to the Commission of cognizable offence, whether given in writing or orally, shall be reduced to writing and shall be signed by the person giving the same. It further requires that the substance of the same shall be entered in a book to be kept by the concerned police officer in a prescribed form.
5.3. The importance of the first information report as has been pointed out by the various High Courts as well apex Court, lies in the fact that it is the most immediate first version of incident and has great value in ascertaining the truth. It is not a piece of substantive evidence but it is nevertheless of immense importance as it furnishes in writing the earliest information regarding the occurrence and can be used before there is time for distortion or embellishment to corroborate or contradict its maker under Section 157 or 145 of the Evidence Act as the case may be. It is equally well settled law that once the investigation of the case starts, any subsequent / further statement of a witness will fall under Section 161 Cr. P. C. and will be inadmissible in evidence except for the purpose of contradicting the witness when examined in Court. In a large number of cases relating to the loot and arson of the properties of the Sikhs and gruesome murders of the Sikhs who had been burnt alive in a large number of cases at the hands of the violent mob, this rather ingenious procedure which is obviously net merely irregular but even illegal was resorted to by the concerned police officers with the result that at the stage of trial no corroborative evidence to the deposition of the witness was available which could have been available had a proper F.I.R. been recorded. The Courts were thus deprived of valuable material, which could undoubtedly be of great help in ascertaining the veracity of deposition of the first informant. The non-registration of F.I.Rs as provided for in Section 154 Cr. P. C. thus undermined the very foundation of the prosecution cases. Hence, a large number of cases in which the charge-sheets were filed in Court ended in acquittal mainly because of this serious lacuna and intrinsic infirmity in the investigation. The Committee will presently advert to the observations made by various Courts in this behalf.
5.4. The Committee was also distressed to notice that apart from the above mentioned illegality / infraction of statutory provision committed by the local police of various riot-affected Police Stations, the investigation carried out was itself absolutely casual, perfunctory and faulty. For instance, somehow a practice grew up with the Investigating Officers to examine only complainant, widow or son or father of the deceased as the case may be, under Section 161 Cr. P. C. The Statements so recorded were laconic, cryptic and sketchy running over just three or four lines barely covering the narration of the incident. In most of the cases such statements would end up with the concluding sentence that the maker of the statement was not able to identify anyone from amongst the culprits / mob. The Investigating Officer would thus make a short shrift of the matter and throttle the grievance of victim of violence regarding murder of kith & kin or loot and arson of his / her property as the case may be at the very thresh-hold.
5.5. Since a number of incidents of mob violence took place on a particular day in a particular locality at about the same time during 31st October, 1984 to 4th November, 1984 only it should have been possible for the local police to co-relate the various incidents and find out corroborative evidence but nothing of the kind was done and the solitary witness to the crime even when a charge sheet was filed in the Court would by and large be the complainant alone irrespective of whether he / she had witnessed the occurrence. Indeed the whole investigation was done in such a perfunctory, casual and mechanical manner that no attempts were made even to find out the ocular witnesses to the occurrence, if any, much less corroborative evidence in any shape or form. To crown all, no attempts were made to examine even the family members of the deceased, other than the complainant, inmates of the house and neighbours of the deceased. No attempt was made to ascertain even from the complainant if he or she had witnessed any other killing or incident of loot or arson. Such was the colossal indifference towards loss of human life and properties of Sikhs. Even Hindus who incidentally suffered in loss of life or property during the riots were no exception, so far as investigation of their grievance was concerned.
5.6. The Committee was equally concerned to notice that in most of the cases of mob violence, no attempts were made to trace out the culprits and effect recovery of weapons of offence or stolen / looted property. Strangely enough, in some cases even announcements were made by intimating the culprits to deposit the looted property quietly on the road-side and they would not be harmed. Such property was later taken to the Police Stations and restored to the concerned claimants. The Courts have deprecated such poor investigation and resort to such methods on the ground that in law such recoveries had no evidential value. It was pointed out that no disclosure statements of the accused under Section 27 of the Evidence Act were recorded, no independent witnesses, other than the local police officials were even joined to witness such recoveries. In quite a large number of cases the Courts have observed that such recoveries had bee planted on the accused persons whose names were collected long after the happening of the incidents for reasons best known to the police.
5.7. It may be pertinent to mention here that in a large number of cases the grievance of the deponents is that written reports of the incidents lodged by them were not recorded by the police officers on duty even in respect of heinous crime and gruesome murders when the names of the culprits were mentioned therein and still worse if the names of the culprits included some police officials, influential persons of the town or political big-wigs. Such allegations were repeated by the deponents when examined by the Committee for eliciting some clarification or confirmation of the affidavit.
5.8. Yet another malpractice, which came to light was that kind of format had been prepared at some police stations for the aggrieved parsons to submit their complaints. The form contained various columns, including names and addresses of the complainants, the damage to the persons, the kind and description of the looted / burnt properties and the quantum of loss suffered by them etc. Unfortunately, however, there was no column therein under which the complainant could write the facts attending on the incidents of murder, the name of the deceased and the names of the culprits if any known to them. Such pieces of information when produced in Court were bound to recoil on the prosecution on the ground that the same were bereft of the details of the incident, the names of the witnesses and the names of the accused persons, if any. Evidently this illegal procedure caused incalculable harm to the aggrieved persons / complainants and many a murder was not even reported to the police. A copy of such a format is annexed as Annexure ‘2’ of the Report.
5.9. The Committee also noticed with deep concern that in a large number of cases the incidents reported by the aggrieved persons were not reflected in the charge-sheets even though such aggrieved persons had been examined under Section 161 Cr. P. C. and were cited as Prosecution Witnesses with the result that no distinct / separate charges were framed by the Court in respect of each and every offence as required by the provisions contained in Section 212 and 218 Cr. P. C. The charge-sheets filed in Court were mostly couched in general terms without specifically referring to particular incidents. Under Section 218 Cr. P. C., for every distinct offence of which a person is accused there has to be a separate charge and every such charge has to be tried separately. Of course, the Code has provided that certain charges may be framed and tried together under certain contingencies. In other words, in certain cases the Court permits the joinder of charges and those contingencies contemplated by the Code are given in Section 219, 220, 221 & 223 Cr. P. C. Section 211 & 217 deal with the form of charges while Sections 219 to 224 deal with the joinder of charges and they must be read together and not in isolation. The general principle under Section 218 with regard to there being a separate charge and separate trial in respect of each distinct offence of which any person is accused is mandatory. The other provisions relating to joinder of charges are merely discretionary and empower the Court to allow joinder of charges and try them together keeping in view the provisions mentioned above.
5.10. Section 223 Cr. P. C. is the only provision, which permits several accused persons to be charged and tried together under certain circumstances where accusation prima-facie justifies a joint trial of more persons than one. It enables joint trial of several accused persons when persons are accused of the same offences committed in the course of the same transaction or even persons accused of different offences committed in the course of the same transaction. Section 223 is merely an enabling provision and its object to avoid multiplicity of trials under certain contingencies. However, the Committee was astounded to notice that in a large number of charge-sheets filed in Court several accused persons numbering even 100 and more were arraigned to stand trial together even though allegations against them or some of them were totally distinct and the offences were not co-related to each other in the sense that they did not form part of the same transaction or series of transactions. The obvious result was that such cases ended in acquittal of the accused persons due to utter confusion caused by the indiscriminate mixing of charges and want of marshalling the evidence.
5.11. Still worse it was noticed that although a large number of Prosecution Witnesses had been cited in the list attached to the charge sheet, only a few of them were actually examined at the trial on some pretext or the other. In quite a large number of cases even the solitary ocular witnesses were not examined even though a number of adjournments had been granted by the Court on the pretext that they were not traceable with the result that they inevitably culminated in acquittal. It may be pertinent to mention here that several such witnesses who happened to be widows etc., of the deceased could be successfully traced out by the concerned staff of the Committee for examination by the Committee.
5.12. The last but not the least the Committee records with a sense of deep anguish that the cases of loot and arson committed by the riotous mobs on a large scale resulting in immense damage to and loss of the business establishments, vehicles and other valuable assets of the Sikhs were by and large shelved in cold storage and no heed was paid or concern shown by the Investigating Officers of various Police Stations to probe such cases except recording the laconic and cryptic statements under Section 161 Cr. P. C. of the aggrieved persons/ complainants. Type page 58 till end of para 5 – 12 here.
5.13, The Committee although of the opinion that fresh cases ought to be got registered and duly investigated, in cases of virtually no investigation took a rather pragmatic and realistic view of the matter and thought that no useful purpose may be served in getting such cases registered and investigated now after lapse of nearly eight years of the events. If the Investigating Officer lacked the necessary will and sense of duty/propriety to discharge their duty at the appropriate time when the investigation could have yielded desired result, it would be just an exercise in futility to expect the police officers to do such a Herculean task and achieve the desired results after lapse of eight years when vital clues/evidence would/might have vanished and recovery of looted property would be highly improbable. Hence the Committee was constrained not to recommend any action in such cases except bringing the same to the notice of the Lt. Governor, National Capital Territory of Delhi, for taking such disciplinary action against the delinquent police officials for serious lapses and dereliction of duty on their part as he deemed fit.
5.14. The Committee assumes, and justifiably so, that police officers of the level of Station House Officers, Inspectors of Police and Sub-Inspectors of Police attached to the Police Station who had lot of experience of investigating intricate and complex criminal cases relating to heinous crimes, like dacoities and gruesome murders etc., must be conversant with the various provisions embodied in Code of Criminal Procedure etc. having bearing on the concept and requirements of investigation of criminal cases/heinous crimes. The Committee is, therefore, of the view, that had the S.H.Os., Inspectors of Police and other senior police officers attached to a Police Station supervised and guided the investigation of the riot cases, there would have been hardly any scope for acts of omission and Commission of the colossal magnitude as brought about by the Committee. Even the Deputy Commissioners of Police and Assistant Commissioners of Police owned it to the mass of humanity who had suffered immensely at the hands of the violent and unruly mobs that the investigation and probe into their grievances was properly conducted and the guilty brought to book. The case diaries etc., which have come to the notice of the Committee, however, belie our expectation and an impression is created that even some senior Police officers simply abdicated their responsibility and control over investigation of riots cases. It was their bounded duty to ensure that there was proper and meticulous investigation into the same in accordance with the various provisions of law on the subject. The Committee wish and hope that the senior and experienced Police Officers will acquit themselves in a highly responsible and conscientious manner should any such eventuality, God forbid, arise in future.
5.15. In the following pages the Committee has adverted to some such cases rather briefly to high-light and illustrate the serious and grave lapses and dereliction of duty on the part of some Police Officers who failed to perform their statutory duty of proper and fair investigation, rather they simply tried to hush up the cases by examining only the complainants without any attempt to find corroborative evidence and co-relate the statements of various complainants even though the incidents had taken place at about the same time, place and date as noticed above.
5.16. Following are the illustrative cases high-lighting the irregularities, illegalities committed by the local police of various Police Stations during the course of investigation of various riots cases which will show very casual and perfunctory nature of investigation: -
A-1 File No 572/96/95 JPRC/SP/90 Sh. Harjit Singh s/o Sh Charan Singh
A-2 File No. 22/48/JJC/87/JPRC/SP/90/ Sh. Paramjit Singh s/o Gurbachan Singh
A-3 File No. 23/90/ JJC/87/JPRC/SP/90/ Dr. Dalbir Singh Saluja & 4 other connected cases.
FIR No. 369/84 dated the 1st November, 1984 Police Station Sriniwaspuri, New Delhi furnishes a glaring example of how faulty, illegal and slipshod was the procedure adopted by Sriniwaspuri Police in the registration and investigation of riots cases pertaining to the area falling under their jurisdiction. It also provides an insight into very casual, perfunctory and defective investigation conducted by Sriniwaspuri Police into various cases reported to it by the aggrieved parties/victims of the riots.
The aforesaid F.I.R. was registered at Police Station Sriniwaspuri towards the Commission of offences under Sections 147, 148, 149, 395, 435, 436 427 & 295 I.P.C. on the basis of an omnibus report of a general nature lodged by Sub-Inspector Ved Prakash stating that large scale looting and burning of the properties of Sikhs was taking place in the area. However, no specific incidents of loot and arson were mentioned in the F.I.R. All the complaints/reports received from various aggrieved persons/victims of violence received by Sriniwaspuri Police were tagged to this F.I.R. instead of recording any F.I.R. in respect of specific allegations contained in the reports and the various complainant/aggrieved persons were later on examined under Section 161 Cr.P.C. i.e. during the course of investigation of the case F.I.R. No. 369/84, the total number of such cases being 32 (thirty-two) as per list of the recommendations made by this Committee in the abovementioned cases (See Annexure ‘3’ of the Report).
The Committee was perturbed to notice that even though the F.I.R. had been registered towards Commissionof various offences under the Indian Penal Code as stated above, only 7 (seven) charge-sheets were eventually filed by the Sriniwaspuri Police in court and that too under Section 412 I.P.C. by showing that some stolen articles have been recovered from the accused persons. No charge was framed under sections 147,148, 149, 395 & 437 I.P.C. even though the report on which the said F.I.R. is based emanated from Sub-Inspector Ved Prakash. The gist of 7 (seven) charge sheets is also attached with the above mentioned Annexure (File No. 3/242/JJC/87/JPRC/SP/90). All the aforesaid charge-sheets ended in acquittal. Although a large number of Prosecution Witnesses had been cited yet only a few of them were actually examined.
A perusal of the judgements in the aforesaid charge-sheets would show that all the cases culminated in acquittal primarily on two grounds (i) that the identification of the accused persons by the Prosecution Witnesses was done at the Police Station and there being no judicial identification, no value could be attached to their evidence in identifying the accused persons in Court, (ii) that either no stolen property was recovered in such cases or no property was duly identified by the Prosecution Witnesses and seized as per procedure and (iii) that the F.I.R. did not contain details of the incidents in respect of which charge-sheets had been filed and as such it was of no avail to the prosecution.
It was further noticed that in several cases no investigation was done except recording the statements of the complainant under Section 161 Cr.P.C. In other words the accused persons were not traced out and connected with the looted property. Even the nature of looted property was not established. While some of the complainant were cited as Prosecution Witnesses, they were not examined at the trial. Quite a large number of complaints were not reflected in any of the charges filed in the Court.
In File No. 572/96/85/JPRC/SP/90, although the deponent Harjit Singh son of Charan Singh, Tailor Master resident of 13-Private Colony, Sriniwaspuri, New Delhi had cited even his two Hindu tenants as witnesses to the occurrence, they were not examined either under Section 161 Cr.P.C. or at the trial and only one son of the deponent namely Arjan Singh was examined. Since he was not present at the time of occurrence, he could not name or identify any of the culprits. The said case was not covered by any of the charge-sheets.
It may be pertinent to notice here that the number of cases of this type in which the local police did not record any separate F.I.R. in respect of the specific incidents of violence, loot, arson and murders etc. but they were tagged on to an omnibus F.I.R. registered on the basis of a report of a local police officer which was quite vague and general in nature runs into hundreds as pointed out by the Committee in separate recommendations sent to the Lt. Governor, National Capital Territory of Delhi. Such omnibus F.I.Rs. simply narrated the worsening law & order situation on account of eruption of violent riots in Delhi in the wake of the assassination of late Prime Minister of India, Shrimati Indira Gandhi but did not specify separate incidents or the members of the riotous mobs indulging in such violence, loot, arson and killing of the male Sikhs. With few exceptions, no miscreants were apprehended on the spot even though the violent incidents occurred under the very nose of police.
B-1 File No. 90/169/JJC/87/JPRC/SP/90/ and 8 connected cases
The grievance of the deponents Sh. Beant Singh son of Sh. Nand Singh resident of A-14, Church Lane, Bhogal and others were that their trucks bearing registration No. DLL-9211, DHG-8224, DLL-3013 etc., had been burnt by the rioters on 1st November, 1984 and in consequence they suffered huge losses. The complaints of some of them also were that their business establishments had been looted and burnt. Most of them have alleged that the looting and burning of their vehicles and establishments went under the very nose of Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh who was Incharge Police Post Jangpura.
The scrutiny of the above cases revealed that most of the deponents had been examined by the Investigating Officer Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh under Section 161 Cr.P.C. However, no recoveries were effected in their cases. A charge-sheet was filed in Court in F.I.R. No. 412/84 on 12th March, 1985 against 8 (eight) accused persons and as many as 231 Prosecution Witnesses had been cited. Some of the deponents too were cited as Prosecution Witnesses. Eventually, however, the case ended in acquittal vide Judgement dated 30th November, 1991 of Sh. S.S. Bal, Additional Session Judge, Delhi.
A perusal of the Judgement dated 30th November, 1991 of Sh. S.S. Bal, Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, makes astounding revelations. It would appear that about of 231 Prosecution Witnesses cited in the charge-sheet as many as 88 Prosecutioin Witnesses were examined at the trial. The learned Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi has observed that barring Prosecution Witnesses 5, 6, 27, 28 & 88, the evidence of the rest of the witnesses was not at all material because they had simply stated that their respective vehicles and establishments etc., were looted and burnt in their absence and they could not identify any of the accused persons. It would indeed appear that the cases of about 200 complainant/aggrieved persons who were victims of the riots had been clubbed with the F.I.R. No. 412/84 although only 88 out of 231 Prosecution Witnesses examined.
Gurcharan Singh Prosecution Witness 6 was one of the owners of M/s. Texla TV Centre, situated at Plot No. 6, Mathura Road, New Delhi, which had been looted and burnt in the riots. Some TV parts etc. were alleged to have been recovered from some of the accused persons, in the presence of Gurcharan Singh and some other witnesses of recovery who were mostly police officials. However, their evidence was found to be wanting to bring home the guilt to the accused and therefore they were eventually acquitted.
The testimony of Prosecution Witness 88 viz., Sub Inspector Shakti Singh who was Investigating Officer and was the author of the F.I.R. No. 412/84 (Supra) makes an interesting reading. According to him he was patrolling the area when a crowd of 1400 to 1500 persons strong armed with lathis etc., came there and started setting the trucks and establishments of Sikhs on fire at about 2.00 P.M. when they i.e. Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh etc., were on Church Lane, Bhogal. He further stated that the two groups, one of Sikhs and the other of non-Sikhs were about to clash with each other but the police fired 13 (thirteen) rounds to disperse them. He even saw some of the accused persons named by him as being members of the unlawful assembly and present at Texla TV Centre. However, they managed to escape and could not be arrested.
The foregoing facts do support to a great extent the grievance of the deponents in the nine cases that the looting and burning of their vehicles and shops etc., took place under the very nose of Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh and they were ready to confront the riotous mob to protect their vehicles and shops etc. but for the intervention of Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh. The Committee thinks that while the act of Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh in preventing the clash between the two groups was quite praise-worthy, his total failure to save the properties of the Sikhs from being looted and burnt at the hands of the mob must be deprecated. It does not stand to reason that while he was able to suppress the Sikh owners of the vehicles and shops, which were under attack by the mob why he could not firmly handle the situation and save the vehicles and other properties of the Sikh from loot and arson. It is further deplorable that barring one or two stray cases no efforts seem to have been made to effect recoveries of the looted properties and send up the miscreants for trial in a Court of law. That besides, the very act of the clubbing nearly 200 cases in one F.I.R. is totally illegal, being violative of provisions of Cr. P.C. adverted to above. It is no wonder that in the absence of any follow-up action by Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh, the evidence of most of the witnesses who happened to be owners of the vehicles and business establishments and had simply deposed that their vehicles and the shops etc. had been looted and burnt was of no value in bringing home the guilt to the accused persons. It bears repetition that only the case of loot and burning of the business establishment “Texla TV Centre” was apparently investigated although the investigation suffered from may a lacuna as pointed out by the Court. In the above cases, too, even though the investigation conducted was found to be faulty, casual and perfunctory, no further investigation or registration of fresh cases where the deponents had not even been examined as witnesses at the trial, was recommended taking a pragmatic and realistic view of the matter that such a course may just be an exercise in futility in view of the fact that eight long years had elapsed since then and the deponents were not in a position to name or identify any of the culprits. However , all such cases were directed to be brought to the notice of Lt. Governor, National Capital Territory of Delhi for taking such disciplinary action as the Lt. Governor may deem fit against the delinquent police officials for serious dereliction of duty.
B-2- File N. 453/2381/85/JPRC/SP/90
B-3- File N. 363/2429/85/JPRC/SP/90
B-4- File N. 4/2432/85/JPRC/SP/90
All the three deponents namely; Sh. Balbir singh son of Sh. Charat Singh resident of 58-Church Road, Bhogal, New Delhi, Sh. Kanwar Jeet Singh son of Sh. Kehar Singh resident of 32-Church Road, Bhogal, New Delhi and Sh. J.S. Gandhi son of Sh. Lochan Singh resident of 43-Masjid Road, Bhogal, New Delhi filed their respective affidavits before Justice Ranganath Misra Commission of Inquiry in September, 1985. The allegations made by Sh. Kanwar Jeet Singh in brief are that on 1st November, 1984 a violent mob raising provocative slogans against Sikhs came to their locality and started setting the trucks, belonging to the Sikhs, on fire near Lahorian-Di-Hatti Chowk. He saw Hari Chand Saini and Vijay Chaudhary amongst the mob as they were leading the mob. Some members of the Sikh community also reached there to wards off the attack. However, in the meantime Sub-Inspector Shakti Singh arrived there along with some policemen and asked the Sikhs to go to their homes. He also fired shots form his revolver to scare them away. There upon Sikhs went to their homes but the mob set some vehicles on fire. On 2ndNovember, 1984 again the mob attacked and set the trucks belonging to Sikhs, parked near Gurdwara, on fire. However, the police did not allow the Sikhs to go near trucks to defend themselves. The same thing was repeated on 3rdNovember, 1984 when some shops were looted and set on fire.
Almost similar allegations have been made by Sh. J.S. Gandhi, deponent. Balbir Singh, deponent has narrated the same story but without naming Hari Chand Saini and Vijay Chaudhary.
The scrutiny reports revealed startling facts. It was noticed that initially the complaints of all the three deponents were linked with FIR No. 412/84 of Police Station Nizamuddin (Supra.). All three of them were examined by the Investigating Officer during the course of investigation of case F.I.R. No. 412/84 dated the 1st November,1984 on different dates