A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice C. Nagappan allowed a 93-year old woman, accused of stealing crockery during the 1984 riots and then illegally occupying a shop, to walk free by reducing her punishment to the period already spent in prison.
Trial Court had found the appellants guilty of the offence under Section 379 read with Section 34 IPC and Section 448 read with Section 34 IPC. An appeal was also subsequently dismissed by the Delhi High Court in 2009.
The Trial Court had observed that any lenient view against the accused persons in sentencing shall amount to putting premium on the crime and the High Court has reiterated the same.
The Supreme Court bench also considered the conviction and sentence to be proper.
However, considering the age of the first appellant Smt. Ashi Devi, who is 93 years old now, and has already undergone a part of the sentence, the Court modified her sentence of imprisonment to the period already undergone by her, leaving the conviction and sentences imposed unaltered.
Smt. Prakash Kaur and her son Jagjit Singh were running crockery shops till two months prior to the riots of 1984 and the accused persons were residing in the neighbourhood of the said shops. After the riots they were informed that their shops had been looted and some persons are occupying the same. When they visited the shop, they found goods looted and the accused persons in possession of the shops.
Their FIR was registered only after 9 years of occurrence of the crime in 1993, when Jain Aggarwal Committee was constituted.
Shri Ashok Kumar Panda, counsel for the appellants contended that the delay of nine years in lodging the F.I.R. and the absence of any ocular testimony should render the conviction and sentence to be set aside.
However, the counsel for the respondent-State, Shri K. Radhakrishnan, contended that “the occurrence took place as aftermath of unfortunate assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards and Sikh community became the target of assault and their houses and shops were ransacked and looted and there was large scale violence and the Riot Commission conducted enquiry and issued direction for registering the cases and thereafter the F.I.R. came to be registered in the present case and the delay has been satisfactorily explained by the prosecution..”
Both, the trial court as well as the High Court had held that the delay has been reasonably and satisfactorily explained by the prosecution and delay by itself cannot be a ground for disbelieving and discarding the prosecution case.
The apex court accepted this explanation as well, but reduced the sentence considering the mitigating factors.
Read the judgment here.