Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the conviction of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots was a case of "justice finally delivered". Around 3,000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi in the days after then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
The court has sentenced Sajjan Kumar, 73, to imprisonment for the "remainder of his natural life". He has been asked to surrender by December 31.
In a tweet, Mr Singh said:
Welcome Sajjan Kumar's conviction by Delhi HC. Justice has finally been delivered. Sajjan was named by victims who I met in refugee camps then and I'd always maintained he should be punished.— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) December 17, 2018
In the 203-page order, the court said criminals have "enjoyed political patronage". It also said there was "abject police failure" in helping the victims get justice.
Sajjan Kumar was acquitted earlier by a trial court. The reversal of the order, Amarinder Singh said, once again proved that the judiciary in India continues to stand tall as a pillar of the nation's democratic system.
Over the years, Amarinder Singh has been calling for the strictest of punishments for the handful of Congress leaders allegedly involved in instigating the riots. Sajjan Kumar is one of the few surviving Congress leaders implicated - the others included Dharam Das Shastri, HKL Bhagat and Arjun Das. His name had repeatedly cropped up in his interactions with the riot victims, Mr Singh said in a statement.
The chief minister said the leaders he has been naming for the last 34 years did not have any official party sanction and deserved to be punished.
Mr Singh also reiterated his stance that the Gandhi family had no role in the violence and said it was people with "vested political interests" that were trying to draw them into the controversy.
Earlier today, Union minister and Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal had linked the Gandhis to the riots, saying, "Today it was Sajjan Kumar, tomorrow it will be (Jagdish) Tytler then Kamal Nath... Eventually it will be the Gandhi family who will be answerable".
Mr Singh ripped into the Badals, accusing them of naming the Gandhi family into the case at the behest of their "political masters" -- the BJP -- which, he said, has been shaken by the mandate to Rahul Gandhi's leadership in the recent Assembly elections in the heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
(With inputs from PTI)