India Senior SC Lawyer H S Phoolka To Join AAP


JALANDHAR: Senior Supreme Court advocate H S Phoolka, who has remained face of legal battle for getting justice for the victims of 1984 riots, has announced to join AAP.

Phoolka said that he would be enrolling himself as a member after paying obeisance at Darbar Sahib Amritsar. Though Phoolka has been spearheading the legal battle for justice to the victims and worked closely with Shiromani Akali Dal controlled Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee and Delhi Sikh gurudwara Management Committee but he did not join any party including the Akali Dal.

Explaining his reason to join AAP he said "t o ensure good governance and freedom from moral and economic corruption social activists have come together to form this political party. After 30 years of being a social and legal activist on justice and equality and legal education and Anti-communal violence, I want to be an active part of this social Revolution - thus joining AAP is my natural choice."

Mentioning role of AAP leaders to get justice for the victims he recalled that former law minister and one of the AAP founders Shanti Bhushan not only appeared in the case against Jagdish Tytler later but earlier on November 1, 1984 he had gone to the then Home Minister Narsimha Rao to impress upon him to call Army immediately. Shanti Bhushan also gave his affidavit before Nanavati Commission stating that Narsimha Rao wanted to call Army but he did not succeed convincing the authorities. "His Affidavit clearly pointed a finger at the then Prime Minister of Rajiv Gandhi, "Phoolka said. He also recalled that both Shanti Bhushan and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan had gone to Tirlokpuri area on 2 nd November 1984 alongwith a group of Supreme Court Lawyers in their effort to stop the killings.

He said that AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia sat on Fast at Jantar Mantar in May 2013 in support of Nirprit Kaur demanding the formation of the SIT in the cases of 1984 Riots and filling of missing chargesheet against Sajjan Kumar for murder of 4 Sikhs in Nangloi Police Station.
H. S. Phoolka on 1984
IF one person can be credited with keeping alive the fight for justice for the 1984 riot victims, it is Advocate Harvinder Singh Phoolka.

He has been the force behind setting up of the Citizen’s Justice Committee and has spearheaded one of the longest and most torturous legal battles for the riot victims.

The visit changed the life for Phoolkas. The advocate and his wife have devoted two decades to fighting the cause of the victims. Phoolka recounts his fight for justice in an interview with

Where were you on October 31, 1984? Were you caught up in the riots?

I was at the High Court when I heard of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. I picked up my pregnant wife from my office and was driving to our home in south Delhi on my motorbike. At a traffic crossing, a friend called to warn me about attacks on Sikhs a few meters ahead.

Skirting the main roads, I drove through slum clusters of Kotla Mubarakpur to reach home safely. But looking back we could see smoke bellowing from the South Extension market. The Kotla gurdwara was burning and bodies of the dead had begun to pile up.

We decided to return to Chandigarh immediately after the riots, travelling in the {censored}pit of an Indian Airlines plane.

But when I came to wind up my practice, I heard that lawyers were needed for writing affidavits of the victims. I went to Farsh Bazaar camp where riot victims from Trilokpuri were living and it changed my life for ever.

So your tryst with the 1984 riot cases began by chance, didn’t it?

I was preparing affidavits for the riot victims when an elderly person told me that in his family only four minor girls are left. Their father, mother, brother and uncle had been killed. His grand daughters had sent to the Nari Niketan. He wanted to take them in his custody but did not have any money to pay the court fees. That was the first case I filed in the High Court. After that I followed each and every case that Justice Kirpal heard, whether I was involved or not.

How did you come to play such a critical role?

In May 1985, when the government appointed Mishra Commission, I suggested we float an organisation so that we could pool our resources to take on the government.

INITIALLY people were not very enthusiastic and in the end I got Khushwant Singh and General (Jagjit Singh) Arora to endorse the idea. Various human right groups met at Soli Sorabjee's house and formed Citizens Justice Committee. Soli Sorabji, General Arora, Tarakunde, Khushwant Singh and Justice Narula all signed up as members. Justice Sikri was made the president. I was appointed the secretary. That is how a lawyer of three years’ standing became the secretary of the organisation.

I became the main counsel of the (Justice Ranganatha) Mishra Commission. Soli Sorabjee really gave a lot of time. I had to virtually give up my practice for a year and spend hours at our office in North Avenue - Akali Dal's Gurcharan Singh Tohra allowed us the use of his MP’s flat

What kind of challenges you had to go through during fighting for this cause?

HKL Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar were very powerful those days. My wife gave me her full support though other member of my family had some apprehensions and said this is too dangerous a work. But my response was that if on October 31,1984 I could pass through a burning gurdwara, this was certainly less dangerous. Slowly young boys and girls joined our team. They visited areas dominated by Sajjan Kumar and HKL Bhagat and worked day and night. We were getting threatening letters, but nobody got scared. Soli Sorabjee, Tarkunde and Sikri were there with us through all this.

Hundreds of survivors, scared witnesses and powerful political leaders. It must have been a difficult time in court.

Yes, victims are victimised in the courts too. Mishra commission's terms of reference were very limited. It had only to ascertain whether the violence was premeditated. Soli Sorabji advised me to concentrate on this rather than filing thousands of affidavits. I had interviewed more than 3,000 victims and prepared affidavits. Ultimately, I filed only 575 of them.

How much time did it take you to interview these persons?

It took two months. But it was not just me, but a team. I cross examined these 575 persons to check whether they would stand scrutiny.

Justice Mishra, however, concentrated on the flaws in the affidavits. He put these to investigating agency. They focused not on getting the culprit, but on errors in the affidavits.

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