Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Monday hailed the conviction of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-riots case, describing it as "a case of justice finally delivered" to the victims of one of independent India's worst instances of communal violence.
The reversal, by the Delhi High Court, of the trial court's earlier acquittal to Kumar had once again proved that the judiciary in India continues to stand tall as a pillar of the nation's democratic system, Mr Singh said in a statement.
The Delhi High Court convicted Kumar for conspiracy to commit murder in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case and sentenced him to imprisonment for life
According to Mr Singh, the conviction vindicated the stand he had been taking since those dark days of the violence perpetrated on thousands of innocent Sikhs in the wake of the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi.
The chief minister said he had been naming Kumar as well as a few other former Congress leaders, including Dharam Das Shastri, HKL Bhagat and Arjun Das, for the past 34 years, based on information personally received from victims in refugee camps in Delhi during the riots.
Kumar is the only surviving former Congress leaders implicated in the riots, as the others have since died.
Kumar's name repeatedly cropped up in his interactions with the victims in the refugee camps, said Mr Singh, who last month also welcomed the first death sentence awarded in the 1984 riots case.
Though the years, Mr Singh has been calling for the strictest of punishments for the handful of individual Congress leaders who had been involved in instigating the riots.
The leaders, including Kumar, did not have any official party sanction and deserved to be punished for their horrendous crime, he has maintained.
The chief minister reiterated his stand that neither the Congress party nor the Gandhi family had any role to play in the rioting. He lashed out at the Badals for continuing to drag their names into the case at the behest of their "political masters" - the Bharatiya Janata Party, who he said were clearly shaken by the clear mandate given by the people to Rahul Gandhi's leadership in the recent Assembly elections in three states.
There was no Congress conspiracy behind the violence and the names of the Gandhis did not come up even once during his visits to the refugee camps, Mr Singh said, adding that "vested political interests" were trying to draw the Gandhis into the controversy and the conspiracy for their personal motivations.
The case against Kumar relates to killing of five Sikhs in Raj Nagar part-I area in Palam Colony in South West Delhi on November 1-2, 1984 and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar part II.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel convicted Kumar for criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and acts against communal harmony.
The high court said Kumar's life imprisonment will be for the remainder of his life and asked him to surrender by December 31.