94% acquittal rate under Haryana’s cow slaughter law in Muslim-dominated Nuh

‘Merely because the accused is a Muslim, it cannot be presumed that he was transporting cows for slaughter,’ says one of the acquittal orders, amidst accusations of police collusion in false cases

Updated - February 06, 2023 12:46 pm IST

Published - February 05, 2023 03:47 am IST - GURUGRAM

Representational file image.

Representational file image. | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Of the 69 cases decided by the Nuh district and sessions court under Haryana’s law against cow slaughter in the second half of 2022, only four have ended in conviction, an acquittal rate of 94%.

Nuh, a district predominantly populated by Meo Muslims, has seen several cases of lynching and violence against local residents over allegations of cow slaughter during the past decade.

According to data provided by the Nuh police, only four cases—two in July and one each in October and December—actually ended in conviction during that six-month period. Despite an abysmally low conviction rate, almost one case every second day has been registered under The Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act, 2015 in Nuh district alone over the last seven years. As of December 2022, there were 1,192 such cases pending before the Nuh court.

Also Read | Life after lynching: The widows of Nuh

‘Police colluding in false cases’

Advocate Tahir Hussain Ruparya, who has represented the accused in several such cases resulting in acquittal, alleged that “false cases” were registered by complainants in collusion with the police to extort money or settle personal scores with the accused, leading to a poor conviction rate. “In most of the cases, the complainant is a ‘secret informer’ and the accused are not arrested at the spot. And the prosecution invariably fails to prove that those arrested later by the police were actually present at the spot. In many cases, the complainants turn hostile, leading to the acquittal,” said Mr. Ruparya.

Acquitting the accused of all charges in one such case over two months ago, Judicial Magistrate First Class, Amit Verma, observed in his order that “merely because the accused is a Muslim, presumption cannot be drawn that he was transporting the cows for the purpose of slaughtering”.

The judge, in his order, also pointed out several loopholes in the prosecution’s case such as the police official heading the raiding party not being able to identify the accused, the Test Identification Parade not carried out, contradictory statements by the witnesses, and the case property not being in a sealed condition when produced before the court.

‘Shoddy investigations’

A public prosecutor in the district, speaking on the condition of anonymity, blamed shoddy investigations and police officers’ lack of legal knowledge for the high acquittal rate. “The police seems to lack the efforts in carrying out the investigation for a watertight case. Since most of these raids are conducted in the early hours, and the accused mostly manage to escape, the police can use forensic evidence such as blood and finger prints on the seized weapons to establish the identity of the accused later arrested. The Test Identification Parades are not conducted,” he said.

He added that the investigating officers lacked the knowledge of the law and invoked wrong sections in the challans, giving a benefit to the accused. “There are hardly any independent witnesses in the cases as most of the raids are conducted at night and also the locals don’t want to go against their own community. The closed-circuit television coverage in Nuh is almost nil. The investigating officers, each dealing with 40-50 cases, too are overworked,” said the public prosecutor.

Nuh’s Superintendent of Police Varun Singla conceded that there were sometimes “procedural lapses” on the part of the police due to practical difficulties, such as meat samples not lifted at the spot because staying at the crime scene for a longer time in such cases could be risky for the police team. Also, the vehicles used in the commission of the crime are usually stolen, making it difficult to link them with the accused, while mobile phone SIMs are procured using fake identities, said Mr. Singla.

Also Read | Haryana tightens provisions of Act to curb cow slaughter 

‘Convictions will rise in two years’

However, he added that the district police had studied the bail orders and judgements in detail to fix the loopholes and a Standard Operating Procedure had been released to investigating officers last April, improving the quality of charge-sheets. “As a result, 112 out of 294 anticipatory bail applications moved before the lower court last year (Jan-Dec 2022) were rejected, and around 40% such applications were rejected by the High Court as well. The conviction rate will show a jump in two years time once these cases are decided. In another blow to the criminals, the police ensured that 83 of the 139 vehicles seized were not released,” he said.

With the efforts of the police, 96 villages where cow slaughter cases had been reported over the past five years have now adopted resolutions calling for the boycott of the accused, said Mr. Singla, adding that ulemas have also issued fatwas against beef consumption since it is illegal.

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