Jaipur: A local court in Alwar in Rajasthan on Wednesday acquitted six out of the nine accused in 2017 Pehlu Khan lynching case, citing a lack of evidence.
Two other accused are minors and proceedings against them are pending in the Juvenile Justice Board. One is absconding.
Khan and his companions – including his sons – were attacked by cow vigilantes in Alwar for transporting cattle on April 1, 2017. Khan died two days later, with the incident resulting in nationwide outrage.
“The investigation in the case was already botched up – there was confusion over the cause of death that gave the ‘benefit of doubt’ to the accused. Even the name of the six accused named by Khan in his dying declaration were not mentioned in the statements of Khan’s sons that have weakened the case,” Quasim Khan, who has provided legal help to Khan’s family, told The Wire.
Reports by doctors at Kailash Hospital and Behror CHC differed on the grounds of cause of death.
The post-mortem report by the Behror Community Health Care suggested assault as the cause of death. “After careful examination of dead body by medical board, the cause of death was shock brought as a result of ante mortem thoraco-abdominal injuries mentioned in PMR report,” the report read.
However, doctors at Kailash Hospital stated to the police that Pehlu Khan had died of heart failure.
In the statements of the four victims other than Pehlu, taken under Section 161 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) during the course of investigation, the six men named by Pehlu are not mentioned. The victims had said that the police deliberately omitted their names to weaken the case.
The trial in the lynching case concluded on August 7.
Following Pehlu Khan’s death, 200 other ‘unidentified’ people were listed as accused in the murder case.
Apart from the juveniles, on the basis of video and other evidence, the police had arrested six men – Om Yadav (45), Hukum Chand Yadav (44), Sudhir Yadav (45), Jagmal Yadav (73), Naveen Sharma (48) and Rahul Saini (24) – charging them under sections 147, 323, 341, 302, 308, 379 and 427 of the IPC.
The case against Khan’s family
The state police, under the Congress government, also chargesheeted Khan and three others, including his two sons, Irshad and Aarif, for illegally transporting cattle on June 29. The chargesheet named the owner of the pick-up truck that was used to transport cattle by Khan as well.
However, a week later, the Rajasthan police moved an application in the court to seek permission to further investigate the case.
The entire case was based on a valid permit from the competent authority for transporting cattle outside the state. As per the chargesheet, the investigation revealed that Khan had purchased two cows and two calves from a cattle fair in Jaipur and had a permit from the Jaipur municipal corporation.
But under the Bovine Act, the competent authority to grant permission for transportation any bovine animal outside the state is a district collector. The chargesheet stated that the collector, in a letter dated April 23, 2017, said his office did not grant permission to Khan and his sons.
Khan’s sons had said that they were taking the cows to their homes in Haryana. Later, they submitted an affidavit in the court, pledging that they were transporting the cows to sell them to their relatives in Chor Chavandi near Tapukara, a village in Alwar and they had the rawana, a receipt of fair tax, tolls and other fees payable under the Act to transport the cattle within the state.
Last year, the police had already chargesheeted two men – Azmat and Rafeeq, who were travelling along with Pehlu Khan when he was lynched, accusing them of smuggling cows.
The police had earlier given a clean chit to all six people accused of lynching Pehlu Khan as it had concluded that none of the accused were present at the location at the time of the attack based on call records. The statements of the employees of a cow shelter, Rath Gaushala, situated four kilometres away from the crime spot, were also taken into account.