Hostile witnesses, missing evidence — court records of the 10 murder cases show glaring gaps in prosecution
* Five prosecution witnesses did a U-turn in court to say they weren’t present when their relatives were murdered — when the FIRs mentioned otherwise.
* Six prosecution witnesses turned hostile and deposed that police forced them to sign blank papers.
* Police did not produce murder weapons in court in five cases.
* The prosecution never cross-examined police on these.
* In the end, all witnesses turned hostile.
These are among the several glaring holes The Indian Express found in the Uttar Pradesh government’s prosecution cases in 10 murder cases filed on the violence that swept through Muzaffarnagar in 2013, killing at least 65 people. Based on the testimonies, and holding that witnesses, mostly relatives of those killed, had turned hostile, the courts acquitted all in the 10 murder trials that ended between January 2017 and February 2019.
In fact, since 2017, Muzaffarnagar courts have delivered verdicts in 41 cases linked to the riots — and delivered a conviction in just one case of murder. All the 40 acquittals have come in cases involving attacks on Muslims.
All these cases were registered and investigations launched under the Akhilesh Yadav government. The trials spanned both his and the current BJP government. The only conviction came on February 8 this year, when the sessions court sentenced seven accused — Muzammil, Mujassim, Furkan, Nadeem, Janangir, Afzal and Ikbal — to life in prison for the murder of cousins Gaurav and Sachin in Kawal village on August 27, 2013, the incident that is said to have triggered the riots.
The Indian Express scrutinised court records and testimonies of complainants and witnesses and interviewed officials in the 10 cases of acquittal to find 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.
That’s not all, a similar trend has emerged in four cases of gangrape and 26 cases of rioting, as well.
Asked why, Zarif said: “Those who have been acquitted are the ones involved in the murder. Because of our weakness, we had to compromise. If we had the capacity, we would have fought the case up to the High Court and Supreme Court. But when we don’t have money to feed our families, what is the purpose of seeking justice from court?”
Like the other murder cases that ended in acquittal, Islam’s trial is not just about his son turning hostile. Court records show the investigation was riddled with contradictions.
For instance, only five of the eight men that Zarif had named — Harpal, Kuldeep, Chashmveer, Sunil and Vinod — were put on trial. Zarif also alleged that police refused to record his father’s statement before his death.
“My father was alive for a few hours. He was seriously injured but despite that, he asked police to record his statement, as he had identified all the persons who attacked him. But instead, they took us to Shamli hospital. We waited for hours but there were no police personnel to record his statement. The most crucial evidence was never recorded because police were protecting the accused,” he said.