A Delhi court on Saturday acquitted all 16 accused in the 28-year-old Hashimpura massacre case at Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. All the acquitted are former personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of Uttar Pradesh.
Additional Sessions Judge Sanjay Jindal said: “I give them the benefit of the doubt due to insufficient evidence, particularly on the identification of the accused.” There were a total of 19 accused, three of them died during the trial.
Copies of the 250-page judgment were not made available to reporters.
The case was based on circumstantial evidence as none of the eyewitnesses was able to identify the accused. The eyewitnesses were those who had survived the massacre.
Counsel for the victims and the survivors, Rebecca John, had also admitted before the court that the eyewitnesses failed to identify the accused. But she said there was enough credible evidence for the conviction of all the accused in the 1987 case.
She cited the eyewitnesses accounts of five prosecution witnesses; the evidence of injuries sustained by one of the police personnel accused of indiscriminate firing inside the truck in which the victims were packed and taken to the Gang Nahar before being shot and thrown into it and the Hindon river in Ghaziabad; the washing of the blood-stained vehicle and the plugging of the hole in the truck caused during the firing. All this pointed to the culpability of the accused in the killings, she argued.
But the court rejected the prosecution evidence saying it had not been able to make an unbreakable chain of circumstances of the case.
According to the prosecution, the accused had allegedly abducted and killed 42 people of a particular community. The killings had occurred during the riots in Meerut and the victims were picked up from the Hashimpura Mohalla by the police personnel of 41st company of the PAC during a search operation.
Counsel for the accused said the investigation had defects and there were discrepancies in the prosecution witnesses’ accounts.
PTI adds :
Following is the chronology of events relating to the case:
May 22, 1987: 50 Muslims picked up allegedly by Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel from Hashimpura village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.
May 1987: Victims shot and bodies thrown into canal. 42 persons declared dead.
1996: Charge sheet filed against 19 accused before Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ghaziabad by CB—CID of Uttar Pradesh police. 161 people listed as witnesses.
Sept. 2002: Case transferred to Delhi by the Supreme Court on petition by the families of victims and survivors.
July 2006: Delhi court frames charges of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy under the IPC against 17 accused.
Jan. 22, 2015: Court reserves judgement for February 21.
Feb. 21: Court defers verdict as it was not ready.
March 21: Court acquits 16 surviving accused giving them benefit of doubt regarding their identity.