The Congress on Monday said the conviction of Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case should not be politicised and hit back at the BJP alleging that names of its leaders in high positions had cropped up in 2002 Gujarat riots.
The party also defended Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath after he was targeted by the BJP and the Akali Dal, saying there was no case against him, and noted that Kumar did not hold any party post and was not given a ticket for decades.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was more vocal on the issue as he hailed the conviction of Kumar, describing it as “a case of justice finally delivered” to the victims . He claimed it was a vindication of his stand as he had been naming Kumar as well as a few other former Congress leaders based on information he received from victims in refugee camps in Delhi during the riots.
In a statement, the chief minister stressed that neither the Congress party nor the Gandhi family had any role in the rioting, and alleged that vested political interests were trying to draw their names into the controversy.
As the anti-Sikh riots returned to haunt the party after the Delhi High Court on Monday convicted the Delhi Congress leader for conspiracy to commit murder in the case and sentenced him to imprisonment for life, Congress leaders here said that the law would take its own course.
"It is a legal, judicial issue. It must be allowed to take its own course, it has taken its own course, and it is taking its own course....How can you politicize it and make a crass, cheap political comment as you just heard from the BJP," party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.
He said the accused may or may not have a right of appeal and the prosecution has a similar appellate right, but the names of a chief minister being sworn in Madhya Pradesh should not be dragged into it.
He was speaking after the BJP and the Akali Dal questioned the Congress for picking Kamal Nath as the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, claiming Sikhs consider him "culpable" in the violence. Another Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, "Don't give it a political colour as it is a court decision."
He also brought up the issue of the 2002 riots in Gujarat and alleged that a number of BJP leaders were named in the cases.
"Charity should begin at home," Sibal said.
Senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that many of the leaders of the BJP have been "involved directly or indirectly in the Gujarat riots".
Singhvi said the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh has no case against him.
"There is no conviction, no allegation, no judicial proceedings, no result, no legal proceeding. I think the country asks people much closer associated with the Gujarat riots, who then occupied chief ministerial chair and MoS Home Affairs chair and today occupy PM's chair and president of the BJP, what about them? What about those cases?," he asked.
"What about the cover up being tried repeatedly, what about your association with Maya Kodnani? So, I think you have to stop politicizing it because your association with such terrible events is much-much closer than the people against you are making an allegation like a CM being freshly sworn in Madhya Pradesh," he said.
"It should not be linked to the political atmosphere prevailing in the country. The law should take its course, there are appeals," Singhvi also said.
There have been verdicts in the past where people have been found guilty, while others have been absolved. "This should not be politicised and political benefit should not be derived from this," Singhvi said.
Kapil Sibal said Sajjan Kumar does not hold a position of power in the party.
"What decision has been taken by the court is a legal process. We have seen how cover up is going on in the Sohrabuddin case... and what about Justice Loya's death?" he asked, referring to the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case and the suspicious death of Justice B H Loya who was hearing the case.
Sunil Kumar Jakhar, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, said the party has been clear that whoever was involved in the riots should be brought to justice.
"Yes, justice has been delayed but delivered finally. Nobody is above law and anyone who is involved in such a heinous crime should be brought to justice," the Congress MP told reporters outside Parliament.
The riots, in which thousands of Sikhs were killed, broke out after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
"Sajjan Kumar is neither a post holder in the party nor a Minister nor given a ticket for decades. Here you have he prime minister, the president of the party, ministers; you don't ask them a question, you ask a question to us?," Singhvi said.
"I said the prime minister should distance himself from Maya Kodnani and all those people. Sajjan Kumar was not given a ticket. He does not hold any office whereas other people who were accused of riots were given positions in Gujarat. All those people were reinstated in Gujarat," Sibal said.