31 years after 42 people were massacred in Hashimpura, Delhi HC convicts 16 PAC cops, awards life sentence

The 16 Provincial Armed Constabulary officers were accused of gunning down 42 people, all from a minority community, in Hashimpura in 1987

Over three decades after 42 youths of a minority community from Meerut’s Hashimpura locality were gunned down in cold blood, the Delhi High Court convicted 16 officers of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) for the massacre and sentenced them to serve life imprisonment.

The Hashimpura massacre, as the incident has come to be known, occurred around May 22, 1987 near Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, at a time when the region was engulfed in wide scale communal riots which, between March and June of that year left over 350 people dead.

The PAC members convicted in the case, and three others who have died since the incident, were accused of randomly rounding up the 42 youth – all innocent of any crime – from Meerut’s Hashimpura Mohalla, escorting them to the outskirts of the city in an official vehicle and then gunning them down. The PAC cops then dumped the bodies in an irrigation canal near the scene of crime.  The dead bodies were later found floating in the canal and eyewitness accounts, including those of a senior cop, led to a case of murder being registered against the 16 PAC personnel.

The Delhi High Court had, on September 6, reserved its verdict on the appeals filed in the case by the Uttar Pradesh government, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and some private parties including a survivor of the massacre, Zulfiqar Nasir. It had also reserved its judgment on BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking further probe to ascertain the alleged role of the then Minister of State for Home, P Chidambaram, in the massacre.

The court had on February 17, 2016, tagged Swamy's plea with the other petitions in the matter.

The petitions in the Delhi High Court were filed in appeal against a trial court verdict which had, on March 21, 2015, given the benefit of doubt to the 16 former PAC personneland acquitted them all citing lack of evidence and failure to establish the identity of the accused with regard to the crime. The case had been transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction given in September 2002 following a petition by the families of the massacre victims and survivors.