An Alwar court on Wednesday acquitted all six accused in the lynching of Pehlu Khan, killed two years ago 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.
The Additional Judicial Magistrate acquitted the six men, giving them benefit of the doubt, according to a lawyer.
At present, the six accused --- Vipin Yadav, Ravindra Kumar, Kaluram, Dayanand, Yogesh Kumar and Bhim Rathi --- have been tried in the Alwar court while three other accused, who were minors at the time of the crime, are being tried separately at a juvenile court.
As soon as judge Sarita Swamy of Upper District and Sessions Court (Number-1) Alwar pronounced the judgement, slogans of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' were heard outside the court.
Later, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Rajeeva Swaroop told PTI that the state government has decided to file an appeal before the High Court.
"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," CM Ashok Gehlot tweeted.
Pehlu Khan was beaten to death on the Jaipur-Delhi Highway in Alwar on April 1, 2017 while he and his sons were bringing cattle bought from a fair in Jaipur to their home in Haryana's Nuh. He later died during treatment.
"We put 44 witnesses on the stand and put all the evidence to light. 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 said.
Pehlu Khan's lawyer, Kasim, reacted, "Our video, a sting operation done with help of a TV channel, was not admitted. The prosecution was weak. There was also poor and biased investigation by the police. It was politically influenced, which helped the accused."
Meanwhile, the accused's counsel Hum Chand Sharma said, "This is a historic decision and the innocent have been given justice. Those who wanted to divide the country between Hindus and Muslims, it is a tight slap to all of them. This has increased the credibility of the justice system. It is the right decision taken by the court."
The reasons behind the acquittal are varied.
Though the six were caught on cellphone camera, the court said the video was not clear enough to establish their presence and was termed as 'not admissible evidence'. Also, the man who made the video did not depose in court.
Moreover, the judge pointed out that the accused were not named in the initial statement by Pehlu Khan before he died.
There were also contradictions behind the cause of his death. The doctors at the private hospital said he died due to a heart attack but the post mortem report said he succumbed to the injuries received due to beating.
The trial in the case had concluded on August 7 and more than 40 witnesses, including Khan’s two sons who were with him on the day of the lynching, have deposed in the case so far.
In 2017, the CID-Crime Branch of Rajasthan Police had given a clean chit to all the six named by Pehlu Khan in his statement, leading to widespread criticism.
Two FIRs were filed --- one against the attackers and another against Khan and his family for smuggling cows.
Police had earlier filed a charge sheet against Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad, Arif and truck operator Khan Mohammed, charging them under provisions of the Rajasthan Bovine Animal ( Prohibition of slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or export ) Act 1995. According to the Act, no one is permitted to transport cows out of Rajasthan without prior transit permit from the respective district administration.
Earlier it was reported that Pehlu Khan was also listed as an accused in the chargesheet though the police later clarified that his name was removed following his death.
When the matter came to light, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had said that the investigation into the case was held under the previous government in 2017-18 and the names of Arif, Irshad and Khan Mohammed were not in the charge sheet filed in December 2018.
Rajasthan government had recently passed a bill in the state assembly to curb incidents of mob lynching. Being part of a mob and indulging in beating another person or attacking another person will attract a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
The fine will be one lakh if somebody is seen in a video as even being part of a mob (that indulges in lynching) will attract a fine of Rs 25,000. Moreover, incidents of mob lynching will be investigated by an IG rank officer.
(With inputs from PTI, online desk)