An Alwar court on Wednesday acquitted all six accused in the lynching of Pehlu Khan two years ago by a mob that set upon him while he was transporting cows.
Hours after the verdict, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the state government will appeal against the verdict delivered by the court of an additional district judge.
Apart from the six acquitted by the Alwar court, three others – all under 18 – are still facing a separate inquiry by a juvenile justice board.
While acquitting the six men, the court gave them benefit of the doubt, additional public prosecutor Yogendra Khatana told reporters in Alwar.
A lawyer representing the accused said the witnesses produced by the prosecution failed to identify them. He also claimed that the video that purportedly showed the lynching was not sent to a forensic lab by the prosecution.
Pehlu Khan (55), his two sons and a few others were transporting cows from Jaipur when they were allegedly stopped and thrashed by a mob near Behror in Alwar district on April 1, 2017.
Later, a video clip surfaced on social media purportedly showing a group of men beating them.
Khan, a resident of Jaisinghpura village in Haryana’s Nuh district, died in hospital on April 3, triggering outrage over the murder and focusing attention on attacks by cow vigilantes.
“The court gave benefit of the doubt to all six accused and acquitted them of lynching charges. We have not received the court order copy and will wait for it to study it and appeal in the higher court,” additional public prosecutor Khatana said.
The accused let off by the court are Vipin Yadav, Ravindra Kumar, Kaluram, Dayanand, Yogesh Kumar and Bheem Rathi.
The court of additional district judge Sarita Swami completed the trial proceedings on August 7 and reserved judgment for Wednesday.
Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad Khan said, “I am not happy with court decision and will appeal in the higher court.”
Prosecution lawyer Qasim Khan also said there will be in an appeal in the higher court.
“We are hopeful of getting justice,” he said.
Additional chief secretary (home) Rajeeva Swaroop told PTI that the state government has decided to file an appeal before the High Court, a decision also confirmed later by the Chief Minister.
“Our state government has enacted 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,” Ashok Gehlot tweeted.
Defence lawyer Hukum Chand Sharma called the Alwar court decision “historic” and a “slap on the face” of the people who he said were doing politics over it.
Elaborating on the line taken by the defence, Sharma said witnesses produced by the prosecution could not identify the accused.
He said Pehlu Khan was a heart patient, and there were differing opinions on the cause of death – a heart attack or a rib fracture.
Asked about the video clip, the lawyer argued that the witness who filmed the lynching did not appear in the court and it was not sent for forensic lab examination.