Sixteen former police personnel have been sentenced to life for killing 42 people of a minority community in Uttar Pradesh in 1987. The Delhi High Court called the Hashimpura massacre in Meerut as "targeted killing" of unarmed and defenceless persons and overturned the trial court's verdict which had acquitted the accused.
The high court convicted the 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel for murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. All of them have to surrender on or before November 22.
"This is a case of targeted killing of members of the minority community by state forces. The statements of the accused prove their presence beyond reasonable doubt. The compensation paid and conviction after 31 years is still a miscarriage of justice for the victims," the court said.
The killings took place during a riot in Meerut when the victims were picked up from the Hashimpura by the PAC during a search operation. The charge-sheet was filed in 1996.
The Supreme Court transferred the case to Delhi in 2002 following a petition by the families of the massacre victims and survivors.
The first witness testimony was recorded in 2006 -- 19 years after the massacre. During this time, three of the CID investigating officers died and couldn't testify. Nineteen people were named as accused and 17 of them were charged for murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy the same year.
However, in March, 2015, a trial court acquitted the 16 giving them benefit of doubt, saying their identification could not be established due to lack of evidence while one died during the trial. All the 16 convicts have retired from service.
The verdict was challenged by Uttar Pradesh, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and some others including a survivor of the massacre in the Delhi High Court.