In 2018 Rakbar Khan lynching case, four cow vigilantes sentenced to 7 years in jail
A fifth accused, a VHP member Nawal Kishore Sharma, whom the family accused as the main suspect, was acquitted on account of “insufficient evidence.”
A local court in Alwar on Thursday held four people guilty of culpable homicide for the death of Rakbar Khan, who was lynched after being intercepted by vigilantes while transporting cows, and sentenced them to seven years in prison.
The convicts were identified as Dharmendra Yadav, Paramjeet Sardar, Vijay Kumar and Naresh Kumar.
A fifth accused, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) member Nawal Kishore Sharma, whom the family accused as the main suspect behind the attack, was acquitted on account of “insufficient evidence.” .
Read: Fight for stringent punishment will go on, says Rakbar’s family
Khan, who was 28 years old, was grievously assaulted in the early hours of July 21, 2018, when he and a friend were transporting two cows in Alwar and were attacked by a so-called cow protection gang. While his friend Aslam escaped, Khan was caught, assaulted, and handed over to local police, which the family accused of denying him life-saving medical attention on time.
The incident was the second major such case by cow vigilante groups after the 2017 murder of Pehlu Khan, which also took place in the Alwar district.
All four accused were out on bail and were taken into custody after the sentence.
Thursday’s pronouncements came as a disappointment to Khan’s family, who said that the four men have not been held guilty for murder and are instead convicted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder – the distinction between the two has to do with “intention”, with murder established only if an intention has been established.
For murder, punishable under Indian Penal Code’s Section 302, the minimum sentence is life imprisonment years. In the case of IPC Section 304 for culpable homicide, the minimum sentence can be 10 years.
“The court has pronounced a rigorous 7-year-jail term and a penalty of ₹10,000 on each under IPC Section 304 [for four accused]. The court has also enforced a one-month jail and ₹500 penalty under the IPC 341 on them,” said Ashok Sharma, the lawyer representing Khan’s family.
Of the four convicts, three -- Paramjeet Singh, Dharmendra Yadav and Naresh -- were chargesheeted under IPC Section 302 for murder.
The court was yet to release the judgment till the time of going to print.
The case is a reminder of the persistent problem of vigilantism in some parts of the country. While cow smuggling may indeed be a problem, violent action taken by private groups has no place in a rules-based order. It’s important that police crack down on vigilante groups and bring them to justice.
Advocate Sharma said, “We respect the decision but are not completely satisfied. We will appeal in the High court for a more rigorous punishment.”
Hemraj Gupta, the lawyer representing the accused, said during the judicial inquiry, police officers were found to be responsible in negligence of handling Rakbar, due to which he succumbed to his injuries and died.
“It was also stated in the judicial inquiry that the prime eyewitness, Aslam, never named any accused during the investigation. We will file an appeal in the high court,” he said.
Khan, his friend had then said, purchased the cows from Ladpura village and was taking the bovines to his home through a forested area in proximity to Lalawandi village when they were attacked by the mob.
The case bore similarities, including the emergence of videos and photographs of the brutal assault, with the Pehlu Khan case a year earlier. In the 2017 lynching, a local court acquitted six out of nine accused on the basis of lack of evidence. Three of those convicted were teenagers.
An appeal in the Pehlu Khan case is pending in the Rajasthan high court.