The Union government has challenged an Amritsar court’s ruling that directed the Centre and Punjab government to award compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to 40 Sikhs who were arrested from the Golden Temple complex by the army and police during Operation Bluestar in 1984.
The state government had decided not to move the Punjab and Haryana high court, but the Centre has filed a writ. Justice Ajay Tewari has set the hearing for July 2. The Amritsar court gave its ruling in April last year, giving relief to the 40 persons who were kept in illegal custody and later shifted to a jail in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, for four to five years even after a discharge order by a local court. The Amritsar court had stated that the persons were “entitled to interest on the compensation amount at the rate of 6% per annum” from the date of filing of suits filed between 1990 and 1992.
Seeking stay on the lower court’s ruling, the Centre has requested the HC to give it an opportunity to present its side.
Jasbir Singh Ghuman, the lawyer and one of the victims who had filed the compensation suit, said, “Once again, government is doing injustice with the victims by denying compensation to them.”
Around 365 persons were arrested from the complex, mostly employees of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) or people who had come to pay obeisance. Welcoming the court’s order in May last year, the SGPC had termed it “victory of truth”.
The Amritsar court had even questioned the role of the army during the operation, observing, “There is no evidence that army made any announcements asking ordinary civilians to leave Golden Temple complex before launching the operation in 1984.”
The operation was carried out in the first week of June 1984 to tackle separatist militants who had fortified the shrine complex. The army managed to kill militants but also suffered heavy casualties, and later faced widespread criticism particularly for civilian deaths and for having used tanks that even left Akal Takht, the temporal seat of Sikhism, damaged.
Proceedings in the court of district judge Gurbir Singh carried many other questions. The order underlined that “the main aim of the armed forces was to target militants”, but the court also observed, “The event underlines the human rights violations by troops during the operation.”