All six accused in the Pehlu Khan lynching case got the benefit of doubt due to "serious shortcomings" in the police probe, the Alwar court observed while acquitting them on Wednesday.
The additional district judge (ADJ) said one such loophole was that their names were not in the statements given by Pehlu Khan and other complainants.
Acquitting Vipin Yadav, Ravindra Kumar, Kaluram, Dayanand, Yogesh and Bheem Singh Rathi, the court said they were not identified by the complainants, which needed to be done under Section 161 of the CrPC.
The court further observed that the accused were identified and charged on the basis of a video but the then investigating officer and Behror SHO, Ramesh Sinsiwar, failed to seize the device used in filming the incident.
The court also said Sinsiwar recorded the statement of Pehlu Khan in the hospital but he did not obtain any certificate from the doctor, mentioning whether the victim was in a condition to give the statement.
Also, the investigating officer presented the recorded statement to the police station 16 hours later, which was a serious negligence, the court order said.
Commenting on the probe by then Circle Officer Parmal Singh, who was handed over the case on April 7, 2017, the court said he seized the mobile phone of Ravindra Kumar, allegedly used for making another video clip of the incident, but the device and its memory card were not sent for forensic examination.
There was no document on record to validate the ownership of the mobile phone and the man who was presented as an independent witness at the time of seizure also turned hostile, the court observed.
Pehlu Khan (55), a resident of Jaisinghpura village in Nuh district in Haryana, was allegedly attacked in the Behror area on Jaipur-Delhi highway in Rajasthan on April 1, 2017.
He died during treatment at the hospital two days later.
In September 2017, the Rajasthan Police had given a clean chit to six other people--Hukum Chand, Om Prakash, Sudhir Yadav, Rahul Saini, Navin Sharma and Jagmal Yadav--who were named by Pehlu Khan in his statement before death.
They were given the clean chit on the basis of photographs, their mobile phone locations and the statement of those present at the crime spot.
Commenting on the verdict, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said on Wednesday that the government would file an appeal against the acquittal in the higher court.
"Our government enacted a law against mob lynching in first week of August. We are committed to ensuring justice for the family of the late Pehlu Khan. The state government will file an appeal against the order of the ADJ," Gehlot tweeted last night.
The Behror police had registered seven FIRs in connection with the incident, one for Pehlu Khan's murder and six for the alleged illegal transportation of bovine.
The remaining six cases are at different stages of investigation and trial.
The chargesheet against the accused in the lynching case was presented in the court of the Behror ADJ on February 25 last year.
The case was later shifted to the Alwar court.
Initially, the case was investigated by the then Behror SHO, Ramesh Sinsiwar.
Later, it was transferred to the then Circle Officer, Parmal Singh.
After that, the case was shifted to the CID-CB at the Jaipur police headquarters.