The wait for justice continues, says Rakbar Khan's wife after a Rajasthan court convicted four men in the 2018 lynching of her husband but acquitted a VHP leader she terms the "main accused".
The court in Alwar on Thursday sentenced Dharmendra Yadav, Vijay Kumar, Paramjeet Singh and Naresh Kumar to seven-year imprisonment in the lynching of Khan on the suspicion of cow smuggling. VHP leader Naval Kishore was acquitted due to lack of evidence against him.
"We have not got justice. They had murdered my husband. The main accused was acquitted by the court while the sentence awarded to the others is less. They should have been given strict punishment," Khan's wife Asmina said on Friday.
The court convicted the four under Indian Penal Code sections 304 (1) pertaining to culpable homicide and 341 (wrongful restraint) but acquitted them of charges of murder (302) and rioting (147).
Special Public Prosecutor Ashok Sharma had said on Thursday that 304 (1) means where there is knowledge but there is no intention to kill.
The trial court's order will be challenged in the Rajasthan High Court, Khan's family members said.
Khan is survived by his wife and seven children. His father Suleman died of a prolonged illness two years after the lynching case.
Talking to reporters after the court's verdict, Kishore, however, said, "... the four others are also innocent". "There was no pressure on the trial court and it has acted according to the law. Even if the case is appealed in the high court, we have full faith in it," he said.
Sharma said Kishore was made an accused based on a telephonic conversation with the other accused. However, the court gave him the benefit of doubt as it did not find any concrete evidence against him, he said.
Reacting to the sentencing, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said, "We will get the decision reviewed. We will see what is written in the decision and later, we will see what can be done."
Defence lawyer Hemraj Gupta said the court acquitted Dharmendra Yadav, Vijay Kumar, Paramjeet Singh and Naresh Kumar in the case of the charges framed under IPC sections 302 and 147 (rioting), while Kishore was acquitted of all charges.
He claimed the court had overlooked the findings of a judicial inquiry in which police had been found at fault. In the statement of Aslam, who was the prime witness in the case, the accused names were not mentioned, Gupta said.
He said that "we have given a notice to the director general of police and district superintendent of police that a judicial inquiry had found police fault in the case and no action was taken against them".
Nasir Ali Naqvi, another SPP in the case, said he will write to the state government to appeal the lynching case in the high court.
"The accused should have been convicted under murder charges (IPC section 302). Aslam had identified the one acquitted (Naval Kishore) in the court. The court had considered his statement which led to conviction of the others, how can Kishore be acquitted. I will be writing to the government to appeal the case in the high court," Naqvi said.
He said even under IPC section 304, maximum punishment of life imprisonment should have been given.
The Rajasthan government had appointed Naqvi as SPP in the case in February 2021 after Khan's mother, Habiban, had raised concerns about the proceedings of the matter.
Police had filed a charge sheet against Paramjeet Singh, Naresh Kumar, Vijay Kumar and Dharmendra Yadav in 2019.
Khan and his friend Aslam were beaten up severely by a group of people on suspicion of cow smuggling in an area under Alwar's Ramgarh police station on July 20, 2018.
They had allegedly purchased the cows from Ladpura village and were taking them to their village in Haryana through a forested area near Lalawandi village when they were attacked by the accused.
Aslam had managed to escape but Khan succumbed to his injuries at an Alwar hospital.