The sessions court in Alwar, which acquitted six persons accused of beating Haryana dairy farmer Pehlu Khan to death, has pointed out “serious lacunas” in the police investigation which created doubts about the involvement of the accused in the alleged crime, making the prosecution’s theory unreliable. The court gave the benefit of the doubt to the accused and absolved all of them of the offences of murder and rioting.
In her 92-page judgment delivered on Wednesday, Additional District & Sessions Judge Sarita Swami ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and neither the evidence of its witnesses nor the material placed on record was sufficient to convict the six persons.
The shortcomings pointed out by the court included the failure of Khan’s sons, who were also injured in the April 1, 2017 incident, to identify the accused, as they were different from those named by the victim in his statement before death. The CID-CB had concluded in its probe that the six persons named by Khan were not present on the spot.
The court noted that Investigating Officer Ramesh Sinsinwar had not obtained a certificate of Khan’s medical fitness from doctors attending on him before recording his statement and given a gap of 16 hours in submitting it for registration of case at Behror police station the next day. “This clearly depicts the police officer’s serious lapse in investigation,” the court said.
Khan, 55, and his sons were transporting cows, after purchasing them in a cattle fair in Jaipur, to their hometown Nuh in Haryana, when they were waylaid near Behror on the Jaipur-Delhi national highway by a mob of self-styled cow vigilantes and beaten up with the accusation of smuggling the cattle. Khan succumbed to injuries in a hospital after two days.
The judge said the police officers had not seized and produced before the court the mobile phone with which the video footage of the incident was said to have been shot. “No forensic science laboratory’s test was conducted and no oral evidence about it was submitted. It is a settled principle of law that an electronic evidence is admissible only as a supporting proof when it is corroborated by the witnesses,” the court said.
The court said the injured persons, who were among the 44 witnesses presented by the prosecution, had not identified the accused during the probe and in the court, but they stated the latter’s names during cross-examination. This also created suspicion about the prosecution’s theory, according to the court.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has announced that the State government would file an appeal in the Rajasthan High Court against the sessions court’s judgment. “Our government has enacted a law against mob lynching in the first week of August. We are committed to ensuring justice for the family of late Pehlu Khan,” he said.