- One who recorded the video did not testify in court, other turned hostile
- NDTV sting video showed one accused making incriminating statements
- Video used by cops to identify accused could not be admitted as evidence
More than two years after a mob was caught on camera beating dairy farmer Pehlu Khan to death, a court in Rajasthan has acquitted six of the men seen in a video of the attack that was one of the key evidences of the prosecution. The judge who gave them the benefit of the doubt, said the cellphone video used by the police to identify and arrest the accused could not be admitted as evidence. An NDTV sting video, where one of the accused had made incriminating statements, was also rejected.
The trial court in Alwar said the cellphone video of the attack was not clear enough to establish the presence of the accused, said Hukam Chand Sharma, lawyer for the accused. Also, the man who recorded the video of the savage attack did not testify in court. A second man who made another video, had turned hostile.
The lawyer representing the accused also claimed that the video was not sent to a forensic lab by the prosecution, reported news agency Press Trust of India.
Last August, Vipin Yadav, one of the accused who walked free, was seen in an NDTV sting boasting about how he had led the mob. He said that they had beaten Pehlu Khan for one-and-a-half hours.
The high court rejected the state police's request to cancel Vipin Yadav's bail on basis of the sting video operation.
In April 2017, Pehlu Khan and his sons were on the way to their village in Haryana transporting cattle they had bought from a fair in Jaipur. Their truck was intercepted by a group of cow vigilantes on the Jaipur-Delhi highway, who dragged the 55-year-old out and thrashed him. He later died in a hospital. Video of the incident showed the men yanking Pehlu Khan by the neck, throwing him to the ground and kicking him repeatedly.
Nine people were accused in the murder case. Three of the accused were minors and the other six men were acquitted of all charges on Wednesday.
The court's verdict comes just two months after New Delhi rejected a report on religious freedom published by the US State Department, which said that religious violence against minorities had spiked under the BJP government.