New Delhi: An independent fact-finding report, released earlier today at the Press Club of India, New Delhi exposed how Rajasthan police tried to “weaken” the investigation by delaying filing of the FIR and invoking IPC sections of crimes with lesser punishment in the Pehlu Khan lynching case.
The investigation termed the police action as “monumental inefficiency” or a “deliberate attempt to weaken the cases against the accused gaurakshaks”.
Pehlu Khan was killed by a group of so-called gau rakshaks in Alwar earlier this year in April when he was returning home after purchasing cattle.
Five of the accused have secured bail even though they have been charged with murder that too, committed in broad daylight. The report says that the police trying to weaken the case and refusing to investigate Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the organisations which Khan had named in his declaration, indicate a partisan investigation in the case.
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The report, which is titled “How the police are protecting the murderers of Pehlu Khan”, was endorsed by Alliance for Justice and Accountability, New York, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai, Dalit American Coalition, New York, Human Rights Law Network, New Delhi, Indian American Muslim Council, Washington, D.C., Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, New Delhi, South Asia Solidarity Group, London and South Asian Solidarity Initiative, New York.
The report highlights, although the attack on Khan happened between 7 PM and 10 PM on April 1, the police deliberately delayed filing the FIR, which was registered on at 3:54 AM the next morning. The report alleges that Khan gave his statement, which later was considered as the “dying declaration”, to the police at 11:50 PM at the Kailash hospital where he was admitted after the attack. The police, however, took almost four hours to reach Behror police station, which was only 2.9 kilometers away from the hospital and file an FIR.
It also says that several Indian Penal Code sections which should have been invoked against the six accused men were dropped during the investigation.
For instance, it says, “Mr. Khan’s severe beating led to his death. Yet, the FIR does not invoke Sec 307 of the IPC for the offence of ‘attempt to murder’ which provides for imprisonment of 10 years of life. Instead, the FIR invokes Sec 308, which only takes cognisance of ‘attempt to culpable homicide not amounting to murder’, prescribing imprisonment of three to seven years.”
The fact-finding team found that the police’s claim that men accused by Khan were absconding for five months after the attack was unconvincing. All the accused men were known Hindtuva activists in the area and were involved with different institutions of Alwar, the report claims. “Apart from announcing a reward of Rs 5000 for information on their whereabouts, the police made no efforts to trace…and arrest them. It is not known if the police conducted any raids at the residences of these accused…or their other likely hideouts.”
Another crucial issue that the report raises is the selective accounting of Khan’s medical records by the police. While the government doctors in their post-mortem report had attributed “shock brought as a result of ante-mortem thoraco-abdominal injuries” as the cause of death, the police tended to believe the doctors at the private Kailash hospital who claimed Khan had died of a heart attack.
The contradictory medical reports, although a problem for any case, assumes greater significance as Kailash hospital belongs to the Kailash Healthcare Limited, a company, the report claims, founded by and owned by Mahesh Sharma, union minister of state for culture, environment, forests, and climate change.
“The records establish that the police and the prosecution have, through acts of commission and omission, worked from the day of the attack to diminish the enormity of the crime, weakening the case against the accused,” it further adds.
These organisations feel that there is a convincing case to take corrective measures before more crucial evidence is lost. “It is time that the National Human Rights Commission and the higher courts intervene in this case…If the utter failure to deliver justice is legitimsed, as developments in this specific case show, the faith of the common citizen in the institutions of justice and democracy as a whole will be undermined,” the report demanded.