By Matters India Reporter
Alwar, August 14, 2019: A sessions court in Alwar on August 14 acquitted all six persons accused of beating to death a Haryana dairy farmer two years ago.
Pehlu Khan was allegedly lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes on the Jaipur-Delhi National Highway.
Additional district and sessions judge Sarita Swami gave the accused the benefit of the doubt in the April 1, 2017, incident that was caught on camera. The 55-year-old died in hospital.
The judge pronounced the judgment in a packed courtroom in the presence of the accused, who were earlier released on bail at various stages during the trial. Three other accused, who are minors, are facing proceedings as children in conflict with law in Alwar’s Juvenile Justice Board.
The trial had concluded on August 7 after the completion of arguments of prosecution and defense. Forty-four witnesses, including Khan’s two sons Irshad and Aarif, had deposed in the case, registered under Sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting) and 341 (wrongful restraint) of the Indian Penal Code. The chargesheet was submitted in a court in Behror, but the trial was later shifted to Alwar.
Moments after the judge’s “not guilty” ruling, slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” erupted from supporters of the accused waiting outside the courtroom.
The disturbing assault video, which went viral, had helped the police identify and arrest some of the accused.
But that Pehlu Khan did not name his attackers in his initial statement to the police left room for doubt, according to defense lawyer Hukam Chand Sharma.
The court also noted what it felt were contradictory reports on how he died. While the post-mortem said he died of his injuries, doctors at the government hospital said a heart attack was the cause.
In 2017, the police had given clean chit to six people named by Pehlu Khan in his dying statement.
The man who recorded the video of the savage attack on his mobile phone did not testify in court and a second man who made a video turned hostile.
Two FIRs had been filed in the case, the first against the attackers and the other charging Pehlu Khan and his sons with transporting cattle from Rajasthan to another state reportedly without requisite permissions. Pehlu Khan had bought the cattle from a fair in Jaipur and was returning to his village in Haryana.
Of the nine people accused of his murder, three were underage. They have been out on bail.
Among those who have been freed of charges is 19-year-old Vipin Yadav, who, in an NDTV sting, had boasted about how he had led the mob in beating Pehlu Khan.
The high court rejected the Rajasthan police request that his bail be cancelled on the basis of NDTV’s sting operation.
Pehlu Khan’s lawyer’s request to submit the sting video as evidence was also denied by the trial court.
Pehlu Khan’s lynching came to symbolize the lowest point in a system that allowed mobs to kill in the name of protecting cows and get away with it, either because of political links or shoddy investigation.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that the state government will appeal against the order.