As MP Court Acquits 9 in 2013 Mass Arson Case over ‘Cow Slaughter Case’, Need for Law Against Mass Crimes, Critical Need for a Law that Defines Mob Violence
Violence over cow slaughter rumour: MP court acquits nine in rioting case
In a 2013 case, social activist Anurag Modi had moved the apex court, alleging that former BJP minister Kamal Patel and his son Sudip had instigated the riots with an eye on the Assembly elections.
Nine persons accused of burning houses and shops belonging to Muslims following a rumour about cow slaughter in Madhya Pradesh’s Khirkiya tehsil in 2013 have been acquitted by a trial court in Harda district, on ground of the ‘absence of prosecution witnesses who had fled’. Ironically, the acquittals in one of the 12 cases of rioting in the Chhipabad Police Station area has come days before the hearing in the Supreme Court of a petition alleging that the police did not properly investigate the riots.
Around 50 Muslims lost their homes and shops on September 9, 2013, in Kheda and Pahatgaon villages as rioters took to the streets accusing Muslims of slaughtering a cow. The autopsy report said the animal died of consuming polythene bags.
Social activist Anurag Modi had moved the apex court, alleging that former BJP minister Kamal Patel and his son Sudip had instigated the riots with an eye on the Assembly elections. He had moved the SC after the Madhya Pradesh High Court rejected his petition. Investigating Officers have been asked to appear in the SC on July 17.
Only last week, Special Judge Vivek Agarwal acquitted nine of the 12 accused, observing that most prosecution witnesses were not present because they had fled. It was not established from the deposition of witnesses that the accused committed the crime, he said.
The complainant, Sayeed Khan had stated in his complaint: “A mob of 400 to 500 people shouting ‘Gai katne walonke haath kat do (chop the hands of cow slaughters)’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ entered our house and shoved a rod into the diesel tank of the tractor. They used the diesel to set vehicles and the house on fire.’’ The police, had later booked Surendra alias Tiger Gopal Singh, self-proclaimed chief of Gauraksha Commando Force, and 11 others under charges of rioting, trespass and arson.
When he was examined in court, Sayeed said he did not know the accused and would not be able to identify who set the house on fire. Defence lawyer Prakash Tank, representing the accused, said that neither the police nor the prosecution was serious about the trial.
The Code of Criminal procedure, section 311, encourages the court to be the ‘eyes and ears of justice’ and intervene when the investigations have been inadequate or witnesses turned hostile. Section 311 empowers the court at any stage of any inquiry, trial or other proceedings under the Code to summon any person as a witness or examine any person in attendance, though not summoned as witness or recall and re-examine already examined witnesses. In the fames BEST Bakery case, April 12, 2004, the Supreme Court had quoted from this section and the jurisprudence around it to encourage lower courts to act in the interests of justice.
Increasingly, the absence of adequate definitions of ‘mass crimes’, arson, mob violence and lynchings, have led to demands for a law against mass crimes that defines these crimes, and puts the onus on the participants of the mob, the financiers and instigators of the mob as also local police and administrative officials when such mob violence is allowed to take place.