HC sentences 16 ex-policemen to life imprisonment
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sentenced 16 former policemen to life imprisonment for killing 42 people of a minority community in Hashimpura locality of Uttar Pradesh's Meerut in 1987.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel reversed a trial court's verdict which had acquitted the accused.
The high court termed the massacre "targeted killing" of unarmed and defenceless people by the police.
It convicted the 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel for murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code.
While sentencing all the convicts to life imprisonment, the court said the families of the victims had to wait 31 years to get justice, and monetary relief cannot compensate their loss.
The high court directed the convicts to surrender on or before November 22. All the 16 convicts have retired from service.
The high court's verdict came on pleas challenging a trial court's decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the case.
"We have proceeded to reverse the trial court judgement and to hold the 16 accused guilty for the offences of criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, murder and destruction of evidence under the IPC," the bench said.
It said the evidence against the PAC personnel is "clinching" in nature and the charges against them stand true beyond reasonable doubt.
The high court had on September 6 reserved its verdict on the appeals filed by Uttar Pradesh, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and some private parties including a survivor of the massacre, Zulfiqar Nasir.
It had also reserved its judgement on BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's plea seeking further probe to ascertain the alleged role of then Minister of State for Home P Chidambaram in the case.
On March 21, 2015, a trial court here had acquitted the 16 former PAC personnel giving them the benefit of the doubt, saying their identification could not be established due to lack of evidence.
Nineteen people were named as accused and charges were framed against 17 of them for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy, by the court here in 2006.
The case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002 following a petition by the families of the massacre victims and survivors.
Of the 17 accused, the trial court had acquitted 16, while one died during the trial.
The NHRC has intervened in the matter seeking further probe into the massacre in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.
A trial court had on March 8, 2013, dismissed Swamy's plea for a further probe to ascertain the role of Chidambaram, who was a Union Minister between 1986 and 1989, in the incident.
After that, Swamy had approached the high court with the appeal.