A Rajasthan court has acquitted all six accused in the lynching of Pehlu Khan in 2017 by a mob that set upon him while he was transporting cows.
Hours after the verdict, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said the state government will appeal against the verdict delivered by the court of an additional district judge.
In a major blow to one of the most crucial lynching cases which caught the attention of the country, additional district judge Sarita Swami exonerated all the accused. According to CNN-News 18, the court acquitted the accused as the Rajasthan Police were not able to prove the case 'beyond reasonable doubt'.
The video of the lynching was not accepted as evidence by the court. Six of the accused — Vipin Yadav, Kalu Ram, Dayanand, Ravindra Kumar, Yogesh Kumar, Bheem Rathi and Deepak alias Golu — were being tried in the case, while three other accused who were minors at the time of the incident, are being tried by a juvenile court.
Rajasthan Police had arrested the accused based on video evidence under Sections 147, 323, 341, 302, 308, 379 and 427 of the IPC.
"The court gave benefit of the doubt to all six accused and acquitted them of lynching charges. We have not received the court order copy and will wait for it to study it and appeal in the higher court," Additional Public Prosecutor Yogendra Khatana told reporters.
Pehlu Khan, a resident of Haryana's Nuh village, was beaten up by gaurakshaks or cow vigilantes near Behror in Rajasthan on 1 April, 2017 for allegedly transporting cattle without permission, even though he had receipts to prove that he had purchased the cows from a cattle fair. He succumbed to his injuries on 3 April.
Later, a video clip surfaced on social media purportedly showing a group of men beating them.
The court of the additional district judge had completed the trial proceedings on 7 August and had reserved the case for judgment on Wednesday.
Pehlu Khan's son Irshad Khan said, "I am not happy with the court's decision and will appeal in the higher court."
Prosecution lawyer Qasim Khan also said there will be in an appeal in the higher court."We are hopeful of getting justice,” he said.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Rajeeva Swaroop told PTI that the state government has decided to file an appeal before the High Court, a decision also confirmed later by the chief minister.
“Our State Government has enacted a law against mob lynching in the first week of August 2019. We are committed to ensuring justice for the family of late Pehlu Khan. The state government will file an appeal against the order of ADJ,” Gehlot tweeted.
Our State Government has enacted law against mob lynching in first week of August 2019.
We are committed to ensuring justice for family of late Sh Pehlu Khan.
State Government will file appeal against order of ADJ.
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) August 14, 2019
Defence lawyer Hukum Chand Sharma called the Alwar court decision “historic” and a “slap on the face” of the people who he said were doing politics over it.
Elaborating on the line taken by the defence, Sharma said witnesses produced by the prosecution could not identify the accused.
He said Pehlu Khan was a heart patient, and there were differing opinions on the cause of death — a heart attack or a rib fracture.
Asked about the video clip, the lawyer argued that the witness who filmed it did not appear in the court and it was not sent for forensic lab examination.
Sharma, however, added that the basis on which the accused were acquitted can only be known after the court order is available.
The then BJP government in Rajasthan under Vasundhara Raje had come under flak over the killing, with the incident escalating the debate over Muslims facing attacks from cow vigilantes.
Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan Assembly Gulab Chand Kataria said the previous BJP government had taken whatever action it could when the Pehlu Khan case took place.
But some people projected the incident in a manner that suggested that the BJP government was in favour of the killing, Kataria, who was the state's home minister then, said.
He said the BJP had acted correctly, adding, “But the matter was given a colour and raised in the entire country."
Recently, the Rajasthan Assembly passed a bill, introduced by the current Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in the state, to tackle mob lynching.
In April 2017, along with the FIR against the people who allegedly lynched Pehlu Khan, the police had also registered a case related to cattle smuggling against his two sons and a truck operator.
The Gehlot government faced criticism recently after a charge sheet was filed in that case.
The police then approached the court, saying it wanted to reinvestigate the cattle smuggling charge, a plea that the court accepted.
Apart from the six men acquitted on Wednesday and the three minors, the police initially investigated the role of six others in Pehlu Khan's lynching.
Those six men were given a clean chit by the police in September 2017.
The charge sheet was filed in the court of ADJ-Behror on 25 February, 2018. The case was later shifted to the Alwar court.
Recently, the Rajasthan Assembly passed a bill – introduced by the current Congress government in the state – to tackle mob lynching.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Aug 15, 2019 00:11:18 IST