How the Pehlu Khan case fell apart
Differing medical opinions, two sets of accused and suspect videos led to the collapse of a seemingly open-and-shut case.
The Ashok Gehlot-led state government has promised urgent steps to reverse the “shocking judgement and give justice to the family”, as Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi implored it through a tweet on Friday to do so. State Congress leaders were quick to point out that the entire probe in the lynching of dairy farmer Pehlu Khan from Nuh district of Haryana in Alwar, Rajasthan, on April 1, 2017, allegedly by a group of cow vigilantes, was conducted and charge-sheet filed during the tenure of the erstwhile BJP government headed by Vasundhara Raje.
But how did a seemingly open-andshut case – which was caught on camera and beamed across television screens – collapse in court? “Everyone failed us,” said Khan’s son Irshad.
ET decoded the court judgement to find out how this happened.
THREE PROBE OFFICERS, TWO SETS OF ACCUSED
Three police officers probed the case in quick succession. The first was the then station house officer of Behror police station, Ramesh Sinsinwar. He recorded Khan’s crucial last statement in hospital before he breathed his last on April 4. In that statement, on April 1 evening, Khan named six persons – Om Yadav, Hukumchand Yadav, Naveen Sharma, Sudhir Yadav, Rahul Saini and Jagmal – as the ones who beat him up on suspicion of cow smuggling. Sinsinwar, however, failed to do the basic formalities. He neither got a doctor’s certificate that Khan was fit to make the statement nor got the duty doctor Akhil Saxena or any other doctor’s signatures on the statement certifying it. Sinsinwar lodged a first information report (FIR) against the stated accused only the next day, about 16 hours later, and did not nab the accused or parade them before Khan for identification before he died. This wrecked the case at the outset. “Sinsinwar showed gross negligence,” the court noted.
That was not all. Sinsinwar went ahead and arrested a different set of accused – Kaluram, Vipin Yadav and Ravindra Kumar – who were not named by Khan in his last statement. He did so citing a video that showed the involvement of these people in the attack. On April 8, a second investigating officer, additional superintendent police of Behror Parmal Singh, took over the probe and cited another video to file a charge-sheet against a total of seven persons, including the three arrested by Sinsinwar.
The case then went to the state Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department in July, when a third investigating officer, additional SP Govind Detha, probed those named in the FIR by Khan and concluded based on mobile location details that those six persons were not present at the spot of the assault. He, in fact, questioned Khan’s dying statement, saying how he could know the names of his assaulters whom he did not know from before. So the six named by Khan got off the hook, and the case against the other set of seven rested on the two videos.
BOTH VIDEOS PROVED SUSPECT
“A ‘source’ gave me the video; I got photographs developed from it from a photo studio near the Behror police station; I paid for the same but did not get a bill; I did not seal the said photographs or video; I did not send the photographs or the video for forensic examination; and I do not have the video now – this is what investigating officer Sinsinwar told the court when the defence counsel questioned him about the video that was the star evidence against the seven accused in the charge-sheet. Sinsinwar said he had not seized the mobile on which the video was shot, did not specify the date when he got the video from his “source”, did not specify by which electronic medium he got the video and also did not name the photographer who developed the pictures for him.
The second investigating officer, Parmal Singh, was more forthcoming. He claimed he had another video showing the same accused assaulting Khan and said the video was shot and provided to him by one Ravindra along with the latter’s mobile phone, in the presence of head constable Dayaram. Singh said he got the photographs developed from the video from a photographer named Naval Kishore. But all the three witnesses cited by Singh turned hostile in court, including the police head constable Dayaram who said Ravindra’s phone was not seized in his presence. Ravindra himself said he had only shot a “5-7-10 second video” from the road “far away from the assault spot” and that the police seized his phone on its own. Photographer Kishore said in court that he did not remember if he had developed any photographs for the police. The court hence termed both videos suspect.
TWO SETS OF DOCTORS
Police produced two sets of doctors before the court. One set of doctors, who treated Khan in hospital from April 1-4, ended up casting doubts on the entire police story, telling court that Khan had died of a heart attack because he was an old heart patient and not because of the injuries he sustained during the assault. The lead doctor treating Khan, Dr VD Sharma, in fact said Khan was in good spirits and sitting upright on his hospital bed on April 3 and had asked him when he could be discharged. These doctors also said Khan was not put on a ventilator as his injuries were not grave and he was taking a liquid diet before his sudden heart attack. The other set of doctors who did the body’s post-mortem said Khan died of excessive bleeding from the injuries he had suffered. The court weighed in favour of the latter set of doctors, terming their account more trustworthy.
So, while the court concluded that Khan had died of the grave injuries he suffered during the assault on April 1, 2017, it said the police had failed to prove its case against any attacker. The question, therefore, remains: Who Killed Pehlu Khan?