Soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during a curfew in Muzaffarnagar. (Reuters File Photo)

Of the 41 verdicts delivered by various local courts on cases relating to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots that claimed the lives of at least 65 people, 40 have resulted in the acquittal of the accused, says a report by the Indian Express (IE).

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 report by IE published on Saturday claims that due to “glaring holes” in the prosecution of four cases of alleged gang rapes and 26 cases of rioting, 168 men resulted in acquittals.
The riots took place when Samajwadi Party was ruling in UP and investigations began at that time and continued under the Akhilesh Yadav government.The newspaper report cited the reasons behind all the accused being acquited by the court. Dushyant Tyagi, District Government Counsel, Muzaffarnagar explained that in all the cases, the prime witnesses did not turn up and were declared hostile by the court.

“ We are not filing appeals in any of 2013 Muzaffarnagar riot cases, which ended in acquittal, because in all cases, the prime witnesses were declared hostile by the court after they did not support the prosecution theory. The charge sheet against the accused was filed on the statement of witnesses,” Tyagi told IE.

Another report based on an investigation of court documents relating to undertaken by IE is based on the testimonies, and witnesses that turned hostile, the courts acquitted all in the 10 murder trials that ended between January 2017 and February 2019.

The newspaper spoke to Zarif, a labourer who had filed an FIR after his father’s death during the riots, refused to identify the accused during the trial. He confessed that he had to compromise because of his weakness. “If we had the capacity, we would have fought the case up to the High Court and Supreme Court.”

The court experienced the same behavioural pattern of witnesses in nine other cases that ended with an acquittal.

DH reported that the UP government had recommended withdrawal of 38 criminal cases against more than 100 people, who were accused in the riots.

The Muzaffarnagar riots were termed as the “worst violence in UP” with the army being deployed in the state for the first time in 20 years.

This story first appeared in The Deccan Herald on July 20, 2019 here.