Two commissions and eight investigative committees have so far enquired into the riots. It is evident that the committees were formed one after the other in quick succession only to delay matters. Many of the primary accused in the committees were acquitted or never charge-sheeted.
Marwah Commission (NON-TRACEABLE)
This commission was appointed in November 1984 itself, immediately after the riots. Ved Marwah, Additional Commissioner of Police, was assigned the job of enquiring into the role of the police during the carnage. Mr Marwah was given three months to do his job, but just as he had begun to complete his inquiry, he was taken to court. “Several of the police officers who didn’t like the way the enquiry was progressing, approached the High Court to stay my inquiry” said Marwah.
Many of the accused officers of Delhi Police went to Delhi High Court. As Ved Marwah completed his inquiry towards the middle of 1985, he was abruptly directed by the Home Ministry not to proceed further. Complete records of the Marwah Commission were taken over by the government and were later transferred to the Misra Commission. However, the most important part of the record, namely the handwritten notes of Mr Marwah, which contained important information, was not transferred to the Misra Commission.
Ranganath Misra Commission
The Misra Commission was appointed in May 1985. Justice Rangnath Misra was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India. He submitted his report in August 1986 and the report was made public six months later in February 1987. In his report, Justice Misra had stated that it was not part of his terms of reference to identify persons responsible for the genocide, but instead recommended the formation of three committees.
The Misra Commission shall remain known forever for white-washing official complicity and political patronage without which the slaughter of Sikhs would not have been possible. Submissions and affidavits were surreptitiously passed on to those accused of leading the mobs to facilitate their defence. Some of these documents were later recovered from the house of Sajjan Kumar, one of the Congress leaders who had been accused by victims in their signed affidavits. Gag orders were issued, preventing the press from reporting in-camera proceedings of the Commission.
For full six months, Rajiv Gandhi refused to make public the Ranganath Mishra Commission’s report. When it was tabled in Parliament, the report was found to be an amazing travesty of the truth, an exercise that was dedicated to drawing a bizarre distinction between Congress party workers and the Congress party — the former were guilty, but not the latter; no responsibility was fixed nor were the guilty named.
It recommended no criminal prosecution of any individual, and it cleared all high-level officials of directing the pogroms. In its findings, the commission did acknowledge that many of the victims testifying before it had received threats from local police. While the commission noted that there had been “widespread lapses” on the part of the police, it concluded that “the allegations before the commission about the conduct of the police are more of indifference and negligence during the riots than of any wrongful overt act”.
It was criticised by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Human Rights Watch. It is ironical that Justice Misra was later elevated as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the first Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and also sent to the Rajya Sabha.
Kapur-Mittal Committee (OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT)
The Kapur-Mittal Committee was appointed in February 1987 on the recommendation of the Misra Commission to enquire into the role of the police, which the Marwah Commission had almost completed in 1985.
Why this committee was appointed after almost two years of the Marwah Commission is a mystery. This committee consisted of Justice Dalip Kapur and Mrs Kusum Mittal, retired Secretary of Uttar Pradesh. It submitted its report in 1990. Seventy-two police officers were identified for their connivance or gross negligence. The committee recommended forthwith dismissal of 30 police officers out of 72. However, till date, not a single police officer has been awarded any kind of punishment.
This committee too was put up on the recommendation of Justice Misra.It comprised Justice M.L. Jain, former Judge of the Delhi High Court and Mr A.K. Banerjee, retired Inspector General of Police.
The Misra Commission observed that the police had not registered a large number of cases where the victims had named political leaders or police officers themselves. This committee recommended registration of cases against Mr Sajjan Kumar in August 1987, but no case was registered.
In November 1987, press reports criticised the government for not registering cases despite the recommendation of the committee. In December 1987, one of the co-accused along with Sajjan Kumar, namely Mr Brahmanand Gupta filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court and obtained a stay against this committee. The government did not oppose the stay. The Citizen’s Justice Committee filed an application for vacating the stay. Ultimately, the writ petition was decided in August 1989 and the high court quashed the appointment of this committee. An appeal was filed by the Citizens Justice Committee in the Supreme Court of India.
The Potti Rosha Committee was appointed in March 1990 by the V.P. Singh government, as a successor to the Jain-Banerjee Committee. In August 1990, Potti-Rosha issued recommendations for filing cases based on affidavits that had been submitted by victims of the violence. There was one against Sajjan Kumar. A CBI team went to Kumar’s home to file the charges. His supporters locked them up and threatened them harm if they persisted in their designs on their leader. As a result of this intimidation, when the Committee’s term expired in September 1990, both Potti and Rosha decided to disband their inquiry.
The committee was appointed in December 1990 as a successor to the Potti-Rosha Committee. It consisted of Justice J.D. Jain, retired Judge of the Delhi High Court and Mr D.K. Aggarwal, retired DGP of Uttar Pradesh. This committee was the first which recommended registration of cases against H.K.L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Dharamdas Shastri and Jagdish Tytler.
The Committee also suggested setting up of three Special Investigating Teams in the Delhi Police under a Deputy Commissioner of Police and the overall supervision by the Additional Commissioner of Police. It also issued directions to review the work-load of the three Special Courts set up to deal with the riot cases exclusively so that these cases could be taken up on day-to-day basis.
The question of appointment of Special Prosecutors to deal with the riots was also discussed in this committee before it was wound up in August 1993. Strangely, the cases recommended by this committee were not even registered by the police.
The Ahuja Committee was also a offshoot of Misra Commission. It was set up to ascertain the total number of killings in Delhi. This committee submitted its report in August 1987 and gave a figure of 2,733 as the number of Sikhs killed in Delhi alone.
This report too was highly questionable as it also admitted that in many cases FIR’s had not been registered and many of the missing persons were not presumed dead. They were shown as having moved out.
Dhillon Committee (NON TRACEABLE)
The Dhillon Committee, headed by Mr Gurdial Singh Dhillon was appointed in 1985 to recommend measures for the rehabilitation of the victims. This committee submitted its report by the end of 1985. One of its major recommendations was that the business establishments, which had insurance cover, but whose insurance claims were not settled by insurance companies on the technical ground that riot was not covered under insurance, should be paid compensation under the directions of the government. This committee recommended that since all insurance companies were nationalised, they be directed to pay the claims. However, the government did not accept this recommendation and as a result insurance claims were rejected by all insurance companies throughout the country.
Narula Committee (Non-Traceable)
The Narula Committee was appointed in December 1993 by the Madan Lal Khurana-led BJP government in Delhi. One of the recommendations of the Narula Committee was to convince the Central government to grant sanction in this matter.
Mr. Khurana took up the matter with the Central Government and in the middle of 1994, the Central government decided that the matter did not fall within its purview and sent the case to the Lt. governor of Delhi. It took two years for the Narasimha Rao Government to decide that it did not fall within Centre’s purview.
Khurana ensured that the committee submitted its report in January 1994 whereby it recommended the registration of cases against H.K.L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar. Ultimately, despite the delay by the Central government, the CBI was able to file the charge sheet in December 1994.
The Nanavati Commission was set up in 2000 after a hue and cry was raised on the action taken on the previous reports. The Nanavati Commission was appointed by the NDA after a unanimous resolution passed in the Rajya Sabha. This commission was headed by Justice G.T. Nanavati, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India. Several prominent Congress leaders, including the former Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, had deposed before the commission
The commission submitted its 185-page report in February 2004. The commission reported that recorded accounts from victims and witnesses “indicate that local Congress leaders and workers had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking the Sikhs”. Its report also found evidence against Jagdish Tytler “to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising attacks on Sikhs”. It also recommended that Sajjan Kumar’s involvement in the rioting required a closer look. It did find, however, that the Delhi Police fired about 392 rounds of bullets, arrested approximately 372 persons, and “remained passive and did not provide protection to the people” throughout the rioting. The commission also held the then Delhi Police Commissioner S.C. Tandon directly responsible for the riots.
There was widespread protest against the report as it did not mention clearly the role of Tytler and other members of Congress Party in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The report led to the resignation of Jagdish Tytler from the Union Cabinet. Few days after the report was tabled in the Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also apologised to the Sikh community for Operation Blue Star and riots that followed. The report had been lambasted by the UPA government but the BJP has accepted the report and held the Congress party guilty.
By Anil Dhir