Illustration by Mir Suhail.
Alwar: The world watched in horror as the video of a man being lynched went viral in April 2017. Pehlu Khan, dressed in a white salwaar kurta, was seen being dragged on the highway by a group of men who beat him mercilessly. Khan died in a hospital shortly after the incident. Two years later, that video, a clinching piece of evidence in this case, was disregarded in the court.
All six accused, who were tried as adults for the lynching of Khan, were acquitted by a lower court in Rajasthan’s Alwar District on Wednesday evening. The court of Addition District Judge 1 (ADJ 1) Sarita Swami in Alwar found that there was reasonable doubt and therefore the court granted the benefit of doubt to the accused.
“The video was viral. Everyone saw it. You can still go online and have a look at it. However, the court decided not to admit the video as evidence,” Akhtar Hussain, Pehlu Khan’s lawyer, told News 18.
He added, “For it to be admitted in the court, the police had to obtain a Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) certificate. They could not do that on time. I can’t believe that they had two years to examine a video and they couldn’t do it. The police and investigators have let Pehlu Khan down.”
Hussain, however, argued that the judge could have still admitted the video. A total of 44 witnesses were examined in the Pehlu Khan lynching case. One of those 44 was Ravinder, a constable with Delhi Police, who happened to be passing by. In his statement in the court, Ravinder admitted to making the video.
“Ravinder was passing by when he saw a mob beating Pehlu Khan. He stopped to make the video. He admits that he was the one who made the video. His testimony proves that the video was authentic. I am nobody to question the wisdom of the court, but there was still a possibility of the video being admitted so we were hopeful,” he said.
Rajasthan government last week passed a new law to prevent incidents of mob lynching. Hussain said the law would not be enough to ensure more cases such as Pehlu Khan’s are not repeated. “Laws mean nothing if the investigative agencies don’t do their job properly. They need to work without fear or favour.”
The defence, however, claimed that the prosecution failed the send the video to the FSL in time. Khan, a 55-year-old native of Haryana’s Nuh, had left his village to purchase cattle in order to increase milk produce for Ramzan. Surrounded by a mob of cow vigilantes on the Delhi-Alwar highway on April 1, 2017, he tried to save himself by showing his purchase receipts, but was lynched with rods and sticks.
The six accused let off by the court are Vipin Yadav, Ravindra Kumar, Kaluram, Dayanand, Yogesh Kumar and Bheem Rathi. Three minors were also accused and they are facing a separate inquiry by a juvenile justice board.
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