Two years after Haryana dairy farmer Pehlu Khan was allegedly lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes on the Jaipur-Delhi National Highway, a sessions court in Alwar acquitted all six persons accused of beating him to death, while giving them the benefit of the doubt. The April 1, 2017, incident, caught on camera, had sparked nationwide outrage.

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 targeted by the cow vigilantes and beaten up on the accusation of smuggling cattle. Khan died of his injuries in a hospital after two days.

View of the judge
While giving the benefit of the doubt to the accused, the court noted “contradictions” in the investigation carried out by the police and the prosecution’s evidence.

The court ruled that the video footage of the incident that went viral on the social media could not be treated as admissible evidence in the absence of its certification by the forensic science laboratory. Besides, Khan’s sons reportedly could not identify the accused and the prosecution could not prove that they were the ones visible in the video.

The court also found contradictions in the cause of death, as due to heart attack and injuries inflicted during the attack. The man who recorded the video on his mobile phone did not testify, which created doubts about the identity of the accused.

In 2017, the CID-CB had given a clean chit to six persons who were named as accused in the case on the basis of Khan’s statement before his death. The investigating agency had found after examining the mobile phone records and the statement of a cow shelter caretaker that they were not present on the spot.

After registering the murder case, the police had also lodged the cases with the cow smuggling charges against Khan, his sons and other companions.

Law to deal with lynching
The judgment has come barely nine days after the State Assembly passed a Bill against mob lynching on August 5, making Rajasthan the second State after Manipur to have a dedicated legislation that criminalises lynching as a special offence. After Khan’s alleged murder, the State has witnessed several incidents of similar nature. The Bill has made lynching punishable with life sentence and a fine up to Rs.5 lakh.