NEW DELHI: Neither 'crimes against humanity' nor 'genocide' is part of the domestic law on crime and this loophole needs to be addressed urgently, the Delhi High Court said on Monday.
While calling for strengthening of the legal system to ensure that perpetrators of mass crimes are made answerable, a bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel convicted and sentenced Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, 73, to imprisonment for the remainder of his natural life in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case in which he had been acquitted by a trial court in 2013.
The bench said that the riots "answer the description" of crimes against humanity as in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination, there was "mass killing" of Sikhs in Delhi and the rest of the country, "engineered by political actors with the assistance of the law enforcement agencies".
It said that criminals responsible for the mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage and managed to evade prosecution and punishment.
"Bringing such criminals to justice poses a serious challenge to our legal system. As these appeals themselves demonstrate, decades pass by before they can be made answerable."
"This calls for strengthening the legal system. Neither 'crimes against humanity' nor 'genocide' is part of our domestic law of crime. This loophole needs to be addressed urgently," the high court said.
"In India, the riots in early November 1984 in which in Delhi alone 2,733 Sikhs and nearly 3,350 all over the country were brutally murdered was neither the first instance of a mass crime nor, tragically, the last," the court said, adding that such cases require a different approach to be adopted.
It also said that India has been no stranger to such mass killings since the time of partition in 1947 and the common feature of each has been the "targeting of minorities" in attacks "spearheaded by the dominant political actors" being "facilitated by the law enforcement agencies".
"The mass killings in Punjab, Delhi and elsewhere during the country's partition remains a collective painful memory as is the killings of innocent Sikhs in November 1984.
There has been a familiar pattern of mass killings in Mumbai in 1993, in Gujarat in 2002, in Kandhamal, Odisha in 2008, in Muzaffarnagar in U.P. in 2013 to name a few.
"Common to these mass crimes were the targeting of minorities and the attacks spearheaded by the dominant political actors being facilitated by the law enforcement agencies," the bench said.