Uttar Pradesh government’s prosecution in 10 murder cases during the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 has gaping holes. Most witnesses who are the relatives of those killed had turned hostile. Subsequently, the courts have acquitted all accused in the 10 murder trials that concluded between January 2019 and February 2019, reported The Indian Express.
Since 2017, Muzaffarnagar courts have declared judgements in 41 cases linked to the 2013 riots and has delivered a conviction in only one case of murder. All 40 cases in which the accused were acquitted are the cases involving attacks on Muslims.
Registration and investigation of 41 cases were initiated under the Akhilesh Yadav government. The trials ran during both Akhilesh’s and Yogi’s governments. The one conviction came on 8 February, 2019, when a session court pronounced a sentence of life imprisonment to Muzammil, Mujassim, Furkan, Nadeem, Janangir, Afzal and Ikbal for the murder of cousins Gaurav and Sachin in Kawal village on August 27, 2013. This incident is believed to have triggered the riots.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the scrutiny of court records and testimonies revealed that — from one family burnt alive to three friends dragged into a field and killed, from a father hacked to death with swords to an uncle beaten to death with spades — 53 men accused of murder walked free.
It doesn’t end there, a similar trend emerged in four cases of gangrape and 26 cases of rioting also.
Yogi government is not planning to appeal. Dushyant Tyagi, District Government Counsel, Muzaffarnagar, said: “We are not filing appeals in any of 2013 Muzaffarnagar riot cases, which ended in acquittal, because in all the cases, the prime witnesses were declared hostile by the court after they did not support the prosecution theory. The chargesheets against the accused were filed on the statements of witnesses.”
As per District Government Counsel, notices have been issued to all the witnesses who turned hostile under Section 344 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which mandates a summary trial procedure for false evidence.
Here are the key flaws pointed out by The Indian Express from court records of the 10 murder cases that ended in acquittals:
· 69 men were named by complainants but only 24 were put on trial. Another 45 men who were put on trial were not even mentioned in the original complaint.
· While each FIR mentions murder weapons, police recovered this crucial piece of evidence only in five cases. For instance, in the murder of three men, Amroj, Meherban and Ajmal, in Bhudhana on September 8, 2013, the court passed acquittal orders in three separate cases. The murder weapon, a ‘balakatti’ (sickle), was recovered by the police from one of the accused. But in one case, the weapon was not produced in court; in the second, it was placed as evidence but police said it “did not contain any bloodstains” and, therefore, they “did not send it for further scientific analysis”; in the third, it was placed but no police witness was examined about its recovery.
· In the murder of couple Asimuddin and Halima, in Phugana on September 8, 2013, police named two independent witnesses to prove the search and seizure of evidence. But both deposed that no such seizure took place in their presence and that they were asked to sign on “blank paper” by police. Similarly, in the murder of Rojuddin in Titawi on September 8, the independent witness said no seizure took in place in his presence, and that “all documents were prepared in the police station” before his signatures were taken by police.
· In the murders of three men, Sharique in Mirapur, Rojuddin killed in Titawi and Nadeem in Mirapur, the prosecution named doctors who conducted the postmortem as witnesses. But in court, the doctors were only asked to “prove”, or verify, the medical examination documents. The prosecution did not cross-examine them on the nature of injuries or the cause of death.
· In the murder of Asimudin and Halima, the prosecution did not produce a postmortem report, on which the court noted: “The prosecution has placed only the complaint, the FIR, the general diary entry and site plan of the recovery. No other document or evidence has been produced by the prosecution.”