JAIPUR: The quashing of the cow smuggling case against Pehlu Khan and his sons has ignited a sharp blame game between the Congress and the BJP in Rajasthan. On Wednesday, the High Court had ordered the scrapping of an FIR lodged against Pehlu, his two sons and the driver of the pick-up truck which was being used to transport the cows when the Muslim dairy farmer was lynched by a mob in Alwar district two years ago.
The Court quashed the case saying there is no evidence to show that the cows were being transported for the purpose of slaughtering. Rajasthan High Court Judge Pankaj Bhandari ruled that the FIR and the charge-sheet was ‘an abuse of the process of law’ as the cows that Pehlu had purchased from a government Cattle Fair in Jaipur were milch cows and the calves were one and two years old ; as such it cannot be presumed that they were being taken for slaughter. The Police had filed the case against Pehlu and his sons when the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government was in power in Rajasthan. Pehlu’s family and social activists had consistently argued that the police had foisted the false smuggling case due to pressure from the former BJP government in the state.
After the High Court scrapped the case, the BJP is facing acute embarrassment. But former Home minister in the Raje government Gulabchand Kataria told Express that the police had framed the charges not on the basis of political pressure but after a thorough investigation which was upheld even by a lower court.
"We respect the High Court's view. It would not be ideal to talk about their judgement. I am not sure what the basis of the ruling was, but all I do know that the case was framed after proper investigation by our officials. Now, the decision of one court has been upturned by another, so only they can tell us the details," Kataria asserted.
However, in a sharp counter, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot has claimed that the cow-smuggling case was a BJP conspiracy to divert attention from the real crime of mob lynching and to save the culprits who had killed Pehlu. Welcoming the High Court order, Gehlot said, “The smuggling case was a classic example of how the BJP government and the police administration were focused not to get justice for Pehlu Khan and to save his killers. Instead of punishing the culprits, they colluded to create this false case as a well-thought-out effort to save the men who were guilty of mob lynching. Under this conspiracy, the police officials even filed a charge sheet within ten days of our government being formed last December. ”
The CM said his government by forming an SIT after the lower court verdict in August, ensured that Pehlu's family finally got the justice they deserve. Earlier, Gehlot had even argued that the negligence by the previous BJP government in the Pehlu Khan case was beyond imagination and that is why the accused were given the benefit of doubt by the lower court in Alwar and acquitted in August this year.
Gehlot also pointed out that to prevent such horrific cases in the future, the ruling Congress had passed a bill against mob lynching in the Rajasthan Assembly two months ago. But Gehlot is angry that the Union Home Ministry is simply sitting on the issue and not allowing the bill to become a formal or effective Act.
Hitting out at the Centre, he remarked, “It is so unfortunate that the law we want to create against mob lynching is being stalled. I cannot understand why they are delaying it when the Supreme Court has said that such a law should be enacted. From the information I have, our Act has not even been sent to the President so far and is just buried in some files in the Home Ministry. The central government and Amit Shah, the Home Minister, should explain why they are delaying this matter so much.”
With the BJP on the backfoot and the ruling Congress under Gehlot becoming aggressive, the scrapping of the case is likely to become a major issue in the upcoming Municipal elections in Rajasthan scheduled for November.