Seraikela: Jharkhand Police has dropped the murder charge against 11 accused in the mob ‘lynching’ case of Shams Tabrez Ansari, who was seen in a video that went viral on social media and finally made it to television. The media alleged Tabrez was beaten up with rods while tied to a pole and forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ while social media users claimed he was a notorious thief of the area who admittedly was thrashed too much by people, mostly belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, who had so far been his victims.
Altogether 13 people were named accused in the Tabrez Ansari’s murder case. While police issued charge-sheets to Prakash Mandal alias Pappu Mandal, Kamal Mahato, Sunamo Pradhan, Premchand Mahali, Sumant Mahato, Madan Nayak, Chamu Nayak, Mahesh Mahali, Kunal Mahali, Satyanarayan Nayak and Bhim Sen Mandal, the probe is still underway against Vikram Mandal and Atul Mahali.
The Seraikela-Kharsawan district police dropped the stringent charge of murder under Section 302 of the IPC. The accused will now face the law for a lesser offence under Section 304 of IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).
Seraikela-Kharsawan Superintendent of Police Karthik S said the murder charge was dropped against 11 accused on the basis of post-mortem, medical and forensic reports which said 24-year-old Ansari died of cardiac arrest. “The post-mortem and medical report did not support the charge of murder. They said he died of cardiac arrest. We had doubts and we went for a second opinion from higher-level experts from the forensic and pathological side. They were of the same opinion. So, we had to charge them under Section 304 instead of 302,” the officer said.
In the event of conviction, Section 302 provides for life imprisonment and even the death penalty. Under Section 304, a convict can be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years, which may extend to life imprisonment.
Ansari was allegedly an innocent labourer and welder in Pune, going by the media commentary. They said he had come home to celebrate Eid when he was captured by locals at Dhatkidih village on the night of 17 June over suspicion of trying to steal a motorcycle. He was tied to a pole and assaulted by a mob with sticks and iron rods. A video of the scene that went viral and was flashed across tv networks showed he was forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Hanuman’ by his tormentors, some newspapers claimed.
Though there was no evidence of the perpetrators’ link to any Hindu right organisation, Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists had protested against their arrest.
Ansari’s family had shared the video, which went viral and stirred a nation-wide outrage, with police. Protest demonstrations were held in many cities and towns. Police reached Dhaktidih the next morning, arrested Ansari and sent him to jail after first-aid. His family claimed he had a deep gash on his head and multiple injuries all over which, it suspected, caused his death.
The post-mortem and medical report did not support the charge of murder. They said he died of cardiac arrest. We had doubts and we went for a second opinion from higher-level experts from the forensic and pathological side and they also gave the same set of opinion. So, we had to charge them under Section 304 instead of 302: Investigating police officer
As Ansari’s condition deteriorated, he was moved to the district government hospital the same day. With no signs of improvement, Tabrez was referred to the Tata Main Hospital, where he was declared brought dead on 22 June. Shahista, wife of Tabrez, who was pregnant at the time of her husband’s death, suffered a miscarriage.
The victim’s uncle, Maqsood Aalam said he had met with Tabrez in police custody where he found the latter in a frail condition, barely able to speak.
Meanwhile, AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi reacted sharply to the dilution of the charge against the accused.
“Do you know why lynching after lynching is recorded & shared by culprits? Why each lynching is successively more gruesome than the previous one? Do you know why they dont (sic) stop? Because there is a higher chance that the prosecution will do its best to do a shoddy job. One of the accused had asked with surprise, ‘Yeh mara nahi ab tak?’ Does anyone believe that Tabrez’s tormentors did not want him to die?” Owaisi said in a series of tweets.
One of the accused had asked with surprise ‘ye mara nahi ab tak?’. Does anyone believe that Tabrez’s tormentors did not want him to die?
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) September 9, 2019
But the police insisted, “He did not die at the spot… the villagers did not have any intent to kill Ansari.”
“We filed a charge sheet under IPC Section 304 because of two reasons. One, he did not die at the spot… the villagers did not have any intent to kill Ansari. Second, the medical report did not substantiate the murder charge. The final post-mortem report said Ansari died due to cardiac arrest and that a haemorrhage in the head was not fatal. The second medical opinion said the cause of death was a combination of cardiac arrest and the head injury,” the SP of Saraikela-Kharsawan, Karthik S, told The Indian Express.
“Our motive is to secure a conviction. Initially, we thought we could invoke both 302 and 304 of the IPC, but that could not have gone parallel… The medical reports also did not decisively say death due to haemorrhage. In the court, this could have led to a problem,” a police officer told the newspaper.