15 Aug 2019
Pehlu Khan lynching: Family blames probe after accused walk free
In 2017, a man was lynched on suspicion of being a cow smuggler, the act was filmed, and the incident made everyone angry.
But more than two years later, all the six accused walked scot-free after a court concluded the investigation had lapses.
Pehlu Khan's death and Wednesday's judgment has raised questions on the Indian judicial system.
Will he ever get justice? Probably, not.
Backstory: A bit about the case and verdict
On April 1, 2017, Khan and his two sons were thrashed by vigilantes while they were transporting cows. The 55-year-old succumbed to injuries two days later.
In its verdict, the court of Additional District Judge Sarita Swami said the six accused, namely Vipin Yadav, Ravindra Kumar, Kaluram, Dayanand, Yogesh Kumar, and Bhim Rathi, should be given "benefit of doubt" as the probe had several discrepancies.
Serious shortcomings were left in the investigation, felt court
The court pointed out that the six accused weren't named by Khan in his initial statement and the phone which was used to film the assault wasn't confiscated.
"During the investigation, serious shortcomings were left, which brings the prosecution's case in the ambit of suspicion and the accused stand to benefit from that suspicion," the judgment, which shocked many, read.
Naturally, Khan's son raised questions on investigation
After the verdict, Khan's elder son Irshad said, "We thought justice would be delivered and it will give peace to my father's soul but instead our hopes are shattered."
He told IE the matter was shoddily investigated and said they would approach an upper court.
Their lawyer Qasim Khan concurred. He revealed the investigative officer was changed three times, and he doesn't know why.
Separately, the 'jubilant' defense lawyer also revealed his side
Separately, lawyer Hukum Chand Sharma, who defended the six accused, said the charge-sheet against Khan's sons helped him.
To recall, Khan and his sons Irshad and Aarif were booked on charges of cow-smuggling, in May 2019.
They were charge-sheeted under Sections 5, 8 and 9 of Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995 and Rules, 1995.
In fact, doctors' statements and autopsy report also differed
The prosecution's case was further weakened after doctors of the hospital, where Khan was admitted, changed statements.
"Doctors said that he had an old heart ailment and died of a heart attack. (But) the post-mortem report stated that he had broken ribs (ostensibly following the assault) and died due to his injuries. This contradiction helped bolster our argument," Sharma added.
Shockingly, the most important evidence wasn't admitted in court
While the entire nation cringed after watching the disturbing video of Khan's assault, it wasn't admissible in court, as it wasn't verified by Forensic Science Lab.
Apparently, the man who shot the video chose to not testify in court.
If this wasn't enough, the accused weren't even made to undergo an identification parade in jail.
Despite glaring lapses, a BJP leader called probe "fair".
Why was officer changed so many times, wondered Qasim
"First it was (probed by) the SHO of Behror police station; then the Circle Officer of Behror took over, and finally the CID-CB (CID Crime Branch). What was the need to change the investigating officer so many times in a murder case," Qasim asked.
Do you know?
While CM Gehlot said Khan wasn't charge-sheeted, document proved otherwise
After Khan was posthumously charge-sheeted, the Congress-led Rajasthan government came under heavy criticism, prompting Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to issue a clarification. Gehlot said Khan wasn't indicted, but the charge-sheet which did rounds of media mentioned him as "deceased accused".
Former state Home Minister refuted allegations of unfair probe
On allegations of unfair probe, Gulab Chand Kataria, who was Rajasthan's Home Minister at the time said, "Would they (accused) have spent so much time in jail if the investigation had been not done neutrally? The police did a fair investigation and presented the charge-sheet."
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