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Jain Aggarwal Report :Delhi Riots - 1984

C H A P T E R - 1


Setting up of Justice Ranganath Misra Commission of Inquiry

1.1. A fierce carnage reminiscent of partition days took place in Delhi and else where following the assassination of the late Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi, allegedly by her personal security guards who happened to be Sikhs, on 31st October, 1984. An orgy of violence, arson and looting raged the metropolis of Delhi for three - four days from 31st October, 1984 (evening) till 2nd/3rd November, 1984. The riotous incidents took a toll of about 2733 lives belonging to Sikh Community in Delhi as per Report of R.K. Ahuja Committee set up by Delhi Administration in 1986. Shops, houses, business establishment, vehicles and other valuable articles worth crores of rupees belonging to the Sikhs were looted and destroyed by the rampaging mobs in various localities of Delhi. Some Gurudwaras of the Sikh community were looted, damaged and set on fire by the violent mobs in various parts of Delhi. Some Hindu business establishments etc. were also looted and set on fire in the process but apparently not deliberately.

1.2. The worst affected areas in the disturbances where killing had taken place on a large scale were Tirlokpuri in Police Station Kalyanpuri & Nand Nagri in East District, Palam Village in Police Station Delhi Cantt., Sriniwaspuri in South District, Nangloi, Mangolpuri, Sultanpuri and Anand Parbat in West District, Karol Bagh in Central District and Jahagirpuri in North District.

1.3. On 26th April, 1985, the Central Government announced in Parliament, then in Session, the appointment of Commissionunder Section 3 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 and by Notification in the Gazette of India Extra-Ordinary on the same date the Commissionheaded by Sh. Justice Ranganath Misra, a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of India, was duly constituted with the following terms of reference;

- to enquire into the allegations in regard to the incidents of organized violence which took place in Delhi following the assassination of Late Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi.
- to recommend measures which may be adopted for prevention of recurrence of such incidents.

1.4. Subsequently, the Commission’s sphere of Inquiry was extended to Kanpur in the State of Uttar Pradesh and Bakaro in the State of Bihar vide Notification dated the 3rd September, 1985.

1.5. On 9th July, 1985, the Commissionissued a Notification inviting all persons acquainted with the subject- matter of the inquiry to furnish to the Commissionthe information in the form of affidavit relating to the allegations in regard to the incidents of organised violence which took place in Delhi following the assassination of late Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi and suggest measures to be adopted to prevent recurrence of such incidents. The Notification was duly published in the 25 (twenty-five) leading newspapers with vide circulation in which 6 (six) were in English, 7 (seven) in Hindi, 5(five) in Urdu and 7 (seven) in Punjabi. By 9th August, 1985 which was the last date of receipt of the affidavits by the Commission, a solitary affidavit had been received. The Commission, therefore, extended the time for receipt of the affidavit by one further month and issued fresh Notification in several newspapers including the publicity given on All India Radio and Doordarshan. Within the extended time, 2905 affidavits were received by the Commissionin regard to the incidents at Delhi. Similarly such Notifications were also issued by the Commissionin respect of Kanpur and Bokaro. As this Committees Report is confined only to the incidents of Delhi, the Commission’s observations / findings so far as they are applicable to Delhi will be discussed briefly hereunder;

1.6. Different groups and parties applied to the Commissionfor being allowed to participate in the inquiry. The following were the groups and societies which were permitted so far as the inquiry in Delhi is concerned;

i) Citizens Justice Committee;
ii) Shiromani Akali Dal (L);
iii) Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee;
iv) Citizen’s Committee for Peace and Harmony;
v) Vidhi Chetna;
vi) Sikh Citizen’s Forum for Truth;
vii) Arya Samaj ( Nagrik Suraksha Samiti);

1.7. The Union of India and the Delhi Administration also informed the Commissionthat they would participate in the inquiry. The Union of India, however, did not adopt any specific stand and informed the Commissionthat the question has to be inquired into and decided by the Commissionand the Central Government has no views to express. It assured all cooperation in the inquiry. The Delhi Administration denied the allegations of organized violence and stated that all possible steps were taken to quell the riots in the shortest possible time.

1.8. The parties appearing before the Commissionin the Delhi inquiry were called by the Commission, to disclose their respective stand in writing in regard to the first aspect referred to it. The Citizen’s Justice Committee adopted the following stand ;

“ From the materials available to the Committee prima-facie it appears that the violence in Delhi was premeditated, organized and was perpetrated methodically in a systematic manner so as to lead to the irresistible conclusion of central direction, guidance and control. This task was without doubt performed with the complicity, connivance and active involvement of the administration as well as the members of the ruling party.”

1.9. The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee and the Shiromani Akali Dal (L) adopted almost the same stand as that of Citizen’s Justice Committee. The Arya Samaj ( Nagrik Suraksha Samiti) adopted somewhat different stand mainly emphasizing that the violence following the assassination of the late Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi was sporadic and spontaneous and not the handi-work of any organized group of people. Subsequently, the Citizens Justice Committee through its counsel, Mr. Phoolka, withdrew its participation in the inquiry. The Delhi Sikh Management Committee which was already appearing before the Commissionstarted representing the victims during the remainder of the proceedings.

1.10. The Commissionexamined some of the public Officers - Civil as also defence personnel who held offices, in the administrative hierarchy, during the riots. In respect of the inquiry at Delhi the following were examined :

i) Sh. P.G. Gavai former Lt. Governor ( upto 03.11.1984)
ii) Sh. M.M. K. Wali, former Lt. Governor ( upto 04.11.1984)
iii) Sh. S. C. Tandon, former Commissioner of Police.
iv) Sh. Ved Marwah, present Commissioner of Police.
v) Sh. Gautam Kaul, Additional Commissioner of Police.
vi) Sh. H.C. Jatav, former Additional Commissioner of Police.
vii) Sh. O.P. Yadav, former S.H.O, Police Station Nizamuddin.
viii) Sh. R.S. Sethi, former District Magistrate.
ix) Sh. A. S. Vaidya, former Chief of Army Staff.
x) Maj. Gen J. S. Jamwal, G.O.C., Delhi Area.
xi) Maj. J. S. Sandhu, Sikh Light Infantary.

1.11 Apart from the above mentioned civil as well as defence personnel the Commissionexamined 128 deponents out of 2905 affidavits filed by various categories of people. These included;

i) Affidavits filed by the family members and friends of the victims of violence, loot and arson at the hands of the mob.
ii) Some freelance journalists and social workers who claimed to have visited the various locatlities during the period of riots “ 31.10.1984 to 03.11.1984” and saw ghastly incidents of loot, arson and murders mainly of the male members of the Sikh families in various localities especially a large number of dead bodies which had been burnt by the mob.
iii) Quite a number of affidavits were filed by the residents of various localities to canvass that the violence erupted in the city was spontaneous/sporadic and was not the handi-work of any political party especially Congress(I) leaders as was being made out. It would appear that some of the Congress (I) leaders of Delhi who were apprehensive of being implicated for their alleged (direct or indirect) complicity also maneouvered to obtain quite a large number of affidavits commending their excellent role in helping the Sikh community against the acts of violence and affording them protection wherever possible.

1.12 The Commissionsubmitted its Report to the Government of India in August, 1986 which was tabled on the floor of the Lok Sabha in January, 1987. The Report of the Commissionwas accepted by the Government. The Commissionin its Report made extensive observation on the law and order situation then prevailing following the assassination of the late Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi; the role of Police in Delhi in controlling the riotous situation; their failure to register cases involving heinous crimes and investigation as prescribed under the Law. It would be worthwhile to quote important observations of the Commissionto indicate the magnitude and seriousness of the disturbances and the follow up action needed to punish the guilty:-

On the law & order situation in Delhi and the role of Delhi Police in controlling the situation following the assassination of late Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi the Commissionobserved;

“ The incidents of October 31st, 1984 appear to have been by way of involuntary reaction of a deep sense of grief, anguish and hatred for the assassins. There can be no scope to contend and much less to accept that at the initial stage on 31st October, 1984 the violence that took place was organized… These, therefore, appear to the Commissionto be spontaneous reaction of the people to the then prevailing situation at the commencement but as the Police did not attend to the situation and failed to make proper assessment of what was brewing, what began as an innocent reaction to Smt. Indira Gandhi’s assassination developed into one of the darkest tragedies in independent India’s history.”

Referring to the incidents of violence on 1st November, 1984 the Commission observed;

“ There was no proper assessment by the Police of the grave situation in the city. The Commission is satisfied from the material placed on record that on 1st November, 1984 law and order situation in Delhi had been left in the hands of the riotous mobs and the Police …………… failed to discharge its duty of maintaining law and order.”

Referring to the violent incidents which occurred on 2nd and 3rd November, 1984 the Commission observed;

“ With the arrival of adequate force and army moving around, about in almost every area, the situation showed signs of improvement. Notwithstanding the availability of the army and round the clock movement of it in affected areas many incidents occurred during the day (2nd November, 1984). By the evening of 3rd November, 1984 there was further improvement in the situation.”

Referring to the role of Delhi Police, the Commission observed;

“ There is an independent evidence before the Commission that the Police on the whole, did not behave properly and failed to act as a professional force…… At one stage the Commission was inclined to go into the lapses, issue notices under section 8 (B) of the Commissions of Inquiry Act and record findings of lapses but in view of the evidence later available that the lapses were rampant and several officers of different ranks would be involved if such an inquiry is undertaken the Commission changed its approach to the matter. Such an Inquiry would have protracted. The proceedings and un-usual delay in submission of the report on the issues referred to the Commission was not considered expedient ……… The Commission is of definite opinion that a proper Inquiry should be undertaken ……………………………. Since a lot of time has been lost and delayed Inquiry may not be very effective and useful the Commission recommends that an Inquiry be undertaken without delay and preferably the inquiry to handled by a Committee of two persons - an experienced retired Judge of a High Court and an experienced Civilian.”

Regarding the recording of first information reports of the offences committed during the October- November, 1984 riots and their investigation by the Delhi Police, the Commission observed as follows: -

“ Elsewhere the Commission has dealt with the number of incidents in a classified way. The Commission has also held that during the period of riots, the rioters had their way and the administration had failed to exercise adequate control. Such a tense and panicky situation prevailed that it became difficult for the victims to approach the police for lodging first information reports. It is a fact and the Commission on the basis of satisfaction records a finding that first information reports were not received if they implicated police or any person in authority and the informants were required to delete such allegations from written reports.

When oral reports were recorded they were not taken down verbatim and brief statements dropping out allegations against police or other officials and men in position were written. Several instances have come to the notice of the Commission where a combined F.I.R. has been recorded in regard to several separate incidents. For instance, where a large mob came got divided into groups and simultaneously attacked different houses and carried on different types of operations in the different premises, they as a fact did not constitute one incident; yet only one common F.I.R. has been drawn up. Recording in brief narrative the incident in a common F.I.R. would not provide a sound basis for proper prosecution. Tagging of so many different incidents into one F.I.R. was bound to prejudice the trial, if any, as also the accused persons if called upon to defend themselves in due course. The Commission has noticed on several occasions that while recording F.I.Rs serious allegations have been dropped out and though the case was in fact a serious one, in view of the dropping of the major allegations, a minor offence was said to have been committed. The Commission was shocked to find that there were incidents where the police wanted clear and definite allegations against the anti-social elements in different localities to be dropped out while recording F.I.Rs. Unless the police were hand in glove with the anti-social elements in their respective localities they would not have behaved that way.”

“The sum total effect of this has been that proper F.I.Rs. have not been recorded. There has been initially some delay in lodging / recording of F.I.Rs. on account of the fact that during the period of riots what was primary important for the victims was to run away from the scene and conceal from notice of the rioters so as to escape certain death. In several instances those who had not been massacred were picked up either by police or Army personnel or through other agencies or by their own efforts and shifted to Relief Camps where they were maintained for some time. Semi-normal conditions returned in different localities within three-four days but confidence took time to get restored and, therefore, until the victims returned to their localities quite some time after, in most of the cases they did not know what exactly had happened, so as to make a full report; nor did they know as to who exactly had died or got assaulted. There have been several instances where the lady went one way and found herself in one Camp while the children went elsewhere and ultimately got lodged in a different Camp. Being terror- stricken each one ran for his or her life oblivious of what happened to others of the family. When they reached Relief Camps there was no scope for renewing contacts unless by chance they were in one common Camp and until they met or re-assembled under a common roof each one was unaware of the continued existence of the other. Only when they came back to their respective localities, scope for lodging of F.I.Rs. came. The Commission did come across instances where some F.I.Rs. were recorded in a Relief Camp but these were comparatively few. The delay in lodging of F.I.Rs. could, therefore, be reasonably explained. If properly explained, many of the lapses in the F.I.Rs. may also become acceptable.”


“The criminal activity in Delhi apart from being widespread and in greater intensity exhibited a varied spectrum of human conduct. This requires thorough investigation and careful handling. The same police who remained ineffective during the riots and against whom several allegations were advanced, whether recorded or not, were the investigating agency in respect of the F.I.Rs. The Commission finds it not difficult at all to appreciate and accept the contention of the victims that in such circumstances proper investigation could not be expected. Since the number of deaths is considerably great and there have been number of other grave offences committed, it is necessary that the allegations should be properly looked into and investigations suitably monitored. This will mean fresh or further investigation and review of all actions subsequent thereof. For this purpose since the volume of work is quite heavy, a Committee of at least two officers - one judicial and one administrative, preferably a high ranking police officer from outside Delhi - should be appointed immediately with full authority to look into the papers and give such directions to the prosecuting agency as the facts of each case would warrant. Since there has been a lot of delay in attending to these prosecutions and as further delay would prejudice proper trial and also the prospect of justice being done, it is necessary that expeditious step should be taken to implement these aspects.”

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