Independent fact-finding report exposes how Rajasthan Police helped people accused in Pahlu Khan’s murder get away

Pehlu Khan and cow vigilantes

By Staff Reporter

The Rajasthan police, with the help of state officials, has done everything possible to dismantle and weaken the case against men who lynched Pehlu Khan, an independent fact-finding report released today in Delhi has shown.

Support TwoCircles

The report, which was released earlier today, showed that the “pattern of behaviour exhibited by the police reflects either monumental inefficiency or a deliberate attempt to weaken the cases against the accused Gau rakshaks, nearly all of whom are said to be connected with the BJP and its affiliates such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal.”

The report was released at the Press Club of India and has been 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 the South Asian Solidarity Initiative, New York.

Many of the accused have secured bail even though they have been charged with murder, that, too, committed in broad daylight. Their bail is even more surprising as the attackers took pictures and recorded videos of their acts which should anyway nail them without any doubt.

On April 1, 2017, about 200 people armed with sticks fatally attacked Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer, as he was on his way home with cattle he had earlier bought. The attack occurred in Rajasthan, close to Khan’s village in neighbouring Haryana. Before dying two days later at a private hospital, Khan named six of his attackers in a statement given to the police. But none was arrested. In September, police concluded that none of those named was involved in the attack. Those arrested were not named either in Khan’s statement or in the First Information Report (FIR). They got bail despite being charged with murder.

This report contains the findings of an independent civil society investigation into the actions of the police and the prosecution so far. 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. “This is akin to sabotage, perhaps deliberate, of the judicial process that should instead be marshalled to punish the culprits,” the report added.

The report showed various instances of how the Police acted to help the accused. The report focussed on:

  • Delaying FIR registration without any explanation
  • Not invoking appropriate IPC sections for conspiracy, attempt to murder, destruction of evidence and dacoity, etc
  • Invoking IPC sections for lesser crimes, such as wrongful restraint and causing hurt, with smaller punishments
  • Failure to arrest the accused named in the dying declaration
  • Exonerating named accused on dubious testimonies
  • Failure to arrest any attackers at the crime scene
  • Failure to defend arrests leading to the accused getting bail

The report also said that except Sec 308 and 379, all are bailable. “The charge-sheet added Sec 302 for murder, also non-bailable. Yet the arrested accused secured bail as the prosecution failed to defend the charges and the arrests at the Rajasthan High Court,” the report added.

On the other hand, the report pointed out that several IPC sections that fit the offences, in this case, were ignored in the FIR/charge-sheet. These should have been included on the basis of Khan’s dying declaration, testimonies of the other victims and eyewitnesses, and the circumstances of the case. The failure of the police to do so — despite taking four hours to get to writing the FIR after taking Khan’s statement — has alarming ramifications.

“In his dying declaration, Khan’s said he was returning home after purchasing cattle for Rs. 45,000, and carried the receipts for the trade. He told the police that when he and his sons showed those receipts as proof of legal purchase, the attackers tore them up. Yet the FIR/charge-sheet have not charged the accused with the destruction of evidence,” the report added.

The report also details exactly how the police have time and again, shown a lackadaisical attitude towards the case. “Whereas the police should have been doing their utmost to locate and arrest the six men Khan had named, they (the police) were instead finding ways to exonerate them. In September, the police announced that an investigation by their Crime Investigation Department— Crime Branch (CID-CB) had obtained evidence and statements from witnesses that proved that these six men named by Khan in his statement were not present on the scene of the crime during the attack and, therefore, could not have murdered Khan,” the report says.

“But an examination of the FIR, the charge-sheet and the so-called “exoneration report”, available via news media reports, raises grave doubts about the reasons the police have accorded to declare the six men as innocent and makes the exoneration highly suspect,” said the report.

The report also showed how the medical records were corrupted to help the accused and weaken the case. “In a bid to prove that Khan died not of the injuries from the attack but of natural causes. It is important to note that Khan’s post-mortem, conducted by a “medical board” of three government doctors from the Community Health Centre (CHC), Behror, revealed that Khan’s death was indeed caused by the injuries that he had sustained during the attack on him,” the report added.

In their findings, the government doctors wrote: “After careful examination of dead body by medical board, the fact[s] reveal that cause of death is shock brought as a result of ante- mortem thoraco-abdominal injuries mention[ed] in PMR [post-mortem] report sufficient to cause death as ordinary course of nature.”

And yet, the police and the prosecution are trying to negate the report with statements from doctors at the private Kailash Hospital in Behror where Khan had passed away, says the report. It may be noted that Kailash Hospital belongs to Kailash Healthcare Limited, a company said to be founded and owned by Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of State for Culture, Environment, Forests and Climate Change. A BJP leader, Dr Sharma has been an RSS member from the age of 14.

“If the utter failure to deliver justice is legitimised, as the 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 concluded.

The following are the recommendations of the fact-finding committee:

  • Arrest the six men Khan named in his dying declaration
  • Add IPC sections outlined in this report to the charge-sheet
  • Register FIR afresh to include names of accused, details of looted cattle
  • Investigate VHP and Bajrang Dal for involvement in Khan’s murder
  • Investigate connection between Khan’s and other gau rakshak killings
  • Appeal against the bails of the various accused
  • Act against policemen who failed to make arrests at crime scene
  • Conduct a much broader and more exhaustive investigation