HC convicts 33 in Haryana killing case, says atrocities against Dalits on rise (Second Lead)
New Delhi : The Delhi High Court on Friday held 33 people guilty in a 2010 Dalit killing case in Haryana's Hisar district and said "71 years after Independence, instances of atrocities against Scheduled Castes by those belonging to dominant castes have shown no signs of abating".
"The incidents that took place in Mirchpur between April 19 and 21, 2010 serve as yet another grim reminder of 'the complete absence of two things in Indian society' as noted by Dr B.R. Ambedkar when he tabled the final draft of the Constitution of India before the Constituent Assembly on November 25 1949," a bench of Justice Muralidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta said.
"One was 'equality' and the other, 'fraternity'," the bench said and made strong remarks against the "planned attack" made by the Jat community against the Valmikis during the incident that led to the displacement of 254 Dalit families from Mirchpur village.
"The unstated footnote is that those who had decided to stay back at Mirchpur village did not support the prosecution in the present criminal trial, while those who decided not to return are the ones who did," the court said.
"This in itself is a telling commentary on the fear and intimidation that the Dalits still experience in Mirchpur as a result of the incidents of April 19, 20 and 21 2010."
The bench also noted that the government of Haryana has sought to rehabilitate the displaced families not in Mirchpur but in a separate township terming it as "a sobering fact".
"The question is whether this accords with the constitutional promise of equality, social justice and fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual," the court said in the 209-page order.
The case was transferred on the direction of the Supreme Court from Hissar to Delhi.
A total of 15 accused belonging to the Jat community were tried and held guilty in the case by the trial court in October 2011. Two of them died during the pendency of the appeal. A total of 97 accused were facing trial in the case.
The court upheld conviction of 13 people, who were held guilty by the trial court.
It also convicted 20 more accused who were previously acquitted by the trial court.
"The conclusion of the trial court that there was no criminal conspiracy is unsustainable in law. The trial court failed to examine the photographs, videographs and site plans in its analysis of the events of April 21, 2010 and erred in accepting the alternative version of the incident as put forth by the defence," the bench said and convicted them under various provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The bench directed the 20 more convicts to surrender on or before September 1, failing which the Station House Officer of Narnaund, Haryana will take all necessary steps to take them into custody.
Tarachand, 70, and his 18-year-old physically-challenged daughter Suman were killed in the April 2010 arson attack on their house and a row of other Dalit houses in Mirchpur, about 300 km from Chandigarh.
Relying on the dying declaration of Tara and other prosecution witnesses, the bench held the killing of father-daughter was "murder" and convicted four of them under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC.
Those four are Kulwinder, Ramphal, Rajender and Pawan. The court said that their culpability in burning father-daughter is proved beyond reasonable doubt in the light of the testimony of several prosecution witnesses.
The attack followed a dispute between members of the Jat and Dalit communities of the village.
"The incidents of April 21, 2010 constituted an act of deliberate targeting of the Valmiki houses by Jats and setting them on fire in a pre-planned and carefully orchestrated manner. It was pursuant to a conspiracy by the Jats to teach the Valmikis a lesson," the court said.
The court observed that the collective act of violence by the Jats compelled 254 families of the low caste community to leave the village and many of them are still awaiting rehabilitation and reparation. They have been too scared to return, the court noted.
The court observed that that an unlawful assembly comprising members of the Jat community was formed with the common object of setting fire to the properties of the Valmiki community and perpetrating violence against them.
It also noted the members of that unlawful assembly came armed with stones and oil cans as well as lathis and others.