Pehlu Khan
In this April 19, 2017 photo Alwar lynching victim Pehlu Khan's mother Ankuri Begum (L) is seen at a dharna demanding justice for her son, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. An Alwar court on Wednesday acquitted all six accused in the lynching of Pehlu Khan, killed two years ago by a mob that set upon him while he was transporting cows. Image Credit: PTI

Jaipur: Almost two years after Pehlu Khan was lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes, the Alwar sessions court on Wednesday acquitted all six accused in the case, giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The judgement was announced in the court of Alwar additional district and session judge number-1, Dr Sarita Swami.

The hearing of the case ended on August 7 and nine people were held accused in the case which also included three minors who were out on bail.

The family of the victim produced 44 witnesses.

Khan's advocate Kasim Khan said the case has not been investigated properly and that the police produced a chargesheet under political pressure. "We shall study the judgement and will chalk out our strategy," he said.

Trashed to death for transporting cows

Pehlu Kahn (55) was a resident of Nuh (Haryana). On April 1, 2017 he was thrashed by a mob when he was transporting cattle in a pickup van on suspicion of smuggling cows from Rajasthan to Haryana, which led to his death on April 3, 2017 in a government hospital.

Khan had told the crowd he was bringing the cows from a cattle fair, but they had screamed that he was planning to slaughter the cattle for beef.

The attack on Pehlu Khan and his two sons in the western state of Rajasthan by a suspected mob of cow vigilantes caused public outrage and demands for swift action.

The incident was recorded on camera too. It showed Pehlu Khan being beaten by an aggressive crowd. Videos shot on mobile phones showed Khan begging for mercy as the crowd set upon him after stopping his truck with cows in the back. He died but his sons survived.

The court did not accept the video evidence, Yogendra Singh, the prosecution lawyer, told NDTV news channel.

In 2017, the Rajasthan police had given a clean chit to the six people named by Pehlu Khan in his dying statement.

The remaining three accused are minors and are being tried in a juvenile court.

Twitter backlash after verdict

Some prominent Indians took to Twitter to vent their anger over the acquittal.

"Utterly Shameful! This is a lynching that was caught on camera!!! We live in a state of utter anarchy it seems.. the law, the constitution, even evidence it seems are meaningless.

Dark dark times!! #PehluKhan," said Swara Bhasker, an activist and a film actor.

Shama Mohamed, a spokeswoman for India's opposition Congress party, branded the court decision "a gross travesty of justice".

Owaisi urges Rajasthan to appeal

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi here on Wednesday urged the Rajasthan government to file an appeal against the acquittal of all six accused in the killing of Pehlu Khan.

Earlier, the Alwar Sessions Court acquitted all the six accused in the case, giving them the benefit of doubt. Pehlu Khan (55) was lynched by cow vigilantes on April 1, 2017 on the suspicion of smuggling the cattle from Rajasthan to Haryana.

The government should seek conviction and sentencing of the accused in a time-bound manner, he said. "It's a judgment of a court of law and we must respect it. But the government has a duty to prosecute effectively. The government must file an appeal and seek conviction, sentencing in a time-bound manner," tweeted Owaisi.

"In most lynchings, the accused were happy being filmed while lynching a human being. They wanted to be famous for these awful acts. But are we to now believe that no one killed Pehlu Khan? What will this deliberately shoddy prosecution tell his family?," asked the AIMIM chief.