Pehlu Khan case: Injustice averted

The case was lodged against Pehlu Khan, who lynched by cow vigilantes in April 2017, his two sons and a truck driver for allegedly illegally transporting cows for slaughter. Photo/Reuters

A serious act of injustice was averted with the Rajasthan high court recently quashing the charge of cow smuggling again the sons of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer who was lynched by a vigilante mob in the state’s Alwar district in 2017. Pehlu Khan, his two sons and a truck driver were attacked by a mob which accused them of transporting cattle for slaughter. But Khan was taking the cows in the truck for rearing them in his farm in Haryana after he had bought them at a cattle fair in Jaipur. He had the receipts to prove this, but the killer mob would not bother. Khan succumbed to the injuries he sustained in the attack. But, ironically, a case was filed against him and his sons for illegal trafficking in cows. The case was registered in 2017 when the BJP government was in power in the state, but the charges were framed this year, embarrassingly for the Congress government that replaced it. 

The court has done well to quash the charges which were obviously false and had been made up to show that Khan had violated the law. Though even an act of illegality does not justify an attack and murder of a person, there must have been a thinking that it would weaken the murder charge against the culprits. It was also part of the attempt to blame the victim for the attack by creating the impression that he invited it and even deserved it, in a way turning him into the culprit. This has happened in other cases of lynching also. The Pehlu Khan case became well-known because it was among the first in the recent spate of mob lynchings and had most elements of the hate crimes which were later committed with impunity in many other states. 

There was also a major miscarriage of justice when all the six accused in the murder case were acquitted by a court in Alwar in August this year, giving them the benefit of doubt. After the murder, there were serious doubts about the fairness of the investigation, which was seen as prejudiced and biased. It was claimed that the real culprits were left out and some others were made the accused. The Congress government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to identify the lapses in the investigation and it has squarely faulted the investigating team. Based on its report, the government has filed an appeal in the high court against the acquittal. Those who foisted false charges on Pehlu Khan and his sons and allowed the culprits in the murder case to escape should be brought to book at the earliest.  

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