All six accused in connection with the lynching of a 55-year-old man, Pehlu Khan whose killing triggered a massive outrage, have been have been acquitted by an Alwar court in Rajasthan, said a lawyer on Wednesday. Additional Public Prosecutor Yogendra Khatana Court said they were acquitted over benefit of doubt.
Additional Public Prosecutor Yogendra Khatana told reporters that the prosecution will appeal against the verdict in the higher court after studying the court order.
The Pehlu Khan lynching case was handed over to the crime investigation department-crime branch (CID-CB) in July in 2017. The CB-CID had on September 1, handed over its report to the Alwar police, officials said.
Khan and others were allegedly attacked by cow vigilantes in Alwar on April 1, 2017, while they were on their way to Haryana after purchasing cattle in Rajasthan. Khan, a dairy farmer, succumbed to injuries two days later. Khan and those along with him were attacked as the mob suspected them of illegally smuggling cattle.
In July, an Alwar court accepted the police plea to investigate further a cow smuggling case against a truck operator and the two sons of Pehlu Khan.
While the Rajasthan police had registered a case of murder soon after the Haryana resident’s death in April 2017, it was also investigating the cow smuggling charge. The Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan faced criticism recently after a charge sheet was filed against Khan's sons, Irshad Khan (25) Aarif Khan (22), and truck operator Khan Mohammad.
Gehlot had then said the police could reinvestigate aspects of the cow smuggling case, registered when the BJP government was in power. Days later, the police filed an application in court seeking permission to conduct a further probe. Behror Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court has accepted the police plea.
The police argued that Pehlu Khan’s sons have said they were going to sell the animals in Tapukara in Rajasthan’s Alwar, contrary to the investigation earlier which suggested that the cows were being taken to another state. Also, the truck operator has claimed that he had sold the vehicle to someone else before the incident took place. If proved correct, this could absolve him of the charge that he was involved in transporting cattle illegally.
The three had been charged under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, which allows transportation of cattle only after getting permission from the administration. / Pehlu Khan's name was dropped from the charge sheet filed in May as he has died, police had said earlier.
Pehlu Khan and his companions were initially said to be on their way to Haryana's Nuh district from Jaipur when the cow vigilantes stopped two of the vehicles on the Jaipur-Delhi national highway. Six men were named in the FIR registered in 2017 in connection with Pehlu Khan’s murder.
In the separate case under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act, the police had booked 16 people for illegally transporting 36 animals in six vehicles.
(With PTI inputs)