An “independent investigation” into the 2016 incident of killings of two Muslim cattle traders, including a minor, by a group of “Gau Rakshaks” in Latehar, has accused the police of “sabotaging the investigation”. Two Muslim cattle traders were found hanging from a tree in Jharkhand village on March 18, 2016, and the police had arrested five men including one with links to a local gau raksha samiti (an outfit for protection of cows).
The report, prepared by a group of non-governmental organisations, and made public on April 2 stated that considering the eye-witness accounts, the testimonies, and the post-mortem reports, the murder was premeditated and the conspirators had hatched a conspiracy to carry out the killings. Also, it said that the accused knew both victims from beforehand and had threatened them weeks before the crime. “The failures of police, deliberate or otherwise, began as soon as the crime ended. It is stunning that though the crime occurred during 3.30-6am, the police registered the first FIR nearly 17 hours late, at 10.47 pm,” said the report.
It added that after filing of charge sheet the prosecution case would have been stronger as “appropriate” charges were not invoked. “Testimonies of various prosecution witnesses…clearly establish conspiracy and premeditation. Yet the police did not conduct an investigation on those lines,” the report said. It added that police failed to invoke IPC sections like 120 B(criminal conspiracy), 362(abduction), 153 A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion) among others. The FIR was registered under sections of 302 (murder), 201(Causing disappearance of evidence of offense, or giving false information to screen offender), 34 (common intention) The report also said that confessions from all eight accused were not recorded before a magistrate under section 164 of the CrPC–which would have made their statements admissible as evidence.
The report said that arrested accused secured bail from Jharkhand High Court as the charge-sheet was constructed “weakly”. “More than 18 months after the accused were bailed, the Jharkhand government is still to move the Supreme Court for cancellation of bails,” said the report.