The supporters and relatives of the six people acquitted left the court premises chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram”. The slogan chanting had begun inside the courtroom as soon as ADJ Sarita Swami pronounced the acquittals of Vipin Yadav (19), Ravindra Kumar (29), Yogesh Kumar (30), Bheem Rathi (32), Kalu Ram (44) and Dayanand (44).
Judge Swami noted in her order that the police probe had serious shortcomings and, as such, the accused had a right to the benefit of the doubt.
The lawyer for Pehlu’s family, Qasim Khan, said the police investigation was botched up and conducted under political pressure.
Court points out probe official’s negligence
The shortcomings pointed out by the judge included the fact that the people named by Pehlu Khan before his death were not charged and those who were later charged were not identified by the complainants though this was mandatory under CrPC Section 161. Also, before recording Khan’s statement in hospital police did not obtain a doctor’s certificate on whether or not he was in a position to give a statement.
The judge noted, “Neither the video on the basis of which the accused were chargesheeted nor the phone on which the video was shot was seized and produced before the court. This shows serious negligence by the investigating officer.” The court noted how the lawyer for the accused had claimed that Khan had been suffering from a heart ailment and that this was established by a doctor’s report presented in court by the prosecution itself.
“Police did not carry out an identification parade in the case, neither was the assault video sent to the FSL (forensic science laboratory). The entire investigation was clouded by political interference,” the lawyer for Pehlu’s family, Qasim Khan, said. He added that the family would appeal in the HC.
Later in the evening, chief minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted, “Our state government has enacted a 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 (sic).”
Rajasthan police had found nine persons involved in the lynching of Pehlu Khan. Of the nine, three were found to be minors and their trial is pending before a juvenile justice board. One of the minors is absconding. The remaining six were chargesheeted under IPC Sections 147 (rioting), 323 (causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 379 (theft), and 302 (murder). All six of them were out on bail.
“We will examine the court’s order and on what grounds the accused have been acquitted,” said additional public prosecutor Yogendra Khatana. “We (the government) have decided to appeal the acquittal before the HC at the earliest,” additional chief secretary (home) Rajeev Swaroop said.