A trial court acquitted 16 policemen accused in the Hashimpura massacre case - the killing of 42 Muslim men in Meerut - on Saturday, saying the evidence against them was insufficient. But the survivors and their lawyer say the investigation was shoddy.
The case dates back to 1987, when personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary or the PAC picked up men from the Hashimpura locality during communal riots in the city and allegedly shot them dead.
Senior lawyer Vrinda Grover, counsel for victims, told NDTV, "From the very beginning, there was a deliberate plan to either not collect the crucial pieces of evidence, conceal them or allow them to be lost in the passage of time".
NDTV traced some of the glaring lapses that the senior lawyer say led to the shock verdict.
The state CID took over the probe within two days of massacre, but took nine years to file the chargesheet. One of the two original First Information Reports were destroyed. Weapons of the policemen of were not taken into custody by Criminal Investigation Department. Moreover, only low-ranking policemen were named in the chargesheet.
The administration cremated the bodies recovered from canals - had they been buried, they could have been exhumed for further evidence.
One of the biggest loophole, Ms Grover said, was the CB-CID's failure to identify the accused. "The onus of identifying cannot be on the victims," she said. The information about which battalion was on duty and in-charge of the truck could have been found from official documents.
After the chargesheet was filed in 1996, for three years, none of the accused appeared at the Ghaziabad court. In 2002, the case was transferred to a trial court in Delhi on the direction of the Supreme Court.
The state government has reinstated most of the accused cops after a brief suspension. Ten of them are still in service. Defending the decision, then DGP of Uttar Pradesh, VS Mathur, said, "Dismissal is not outright, once you find someone guilty after investigation. They are placed under suspension and await the court's verdict."