All 29 people accused of burning to death a Deputy Superintendent of Police in Bihar have been set free by a trial court in Bhagalpur, ending a 29-year-old legal battle in which Bihar Police was unable to produce relevant witnesses. The police failed to produce even the main complainant, who was a sub-inspector in Bihar Police.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Sukhdeo Mehra was beaten mercilessly and then burnt alive by a mob of agitated weavers who were protesting against the electricity department over inflated bill on 19 January 1987 in Nathnagar locality of Bhagalpur. Mehra had gone there to pacify the mob. Mehra had reached the spot after a mob of 500 plus angry weavers were fired upon by the police on the order of sub inspector K.K. Singh, resulting in the death of two weavers. However, the police force, including Singh, fled the scene when they saw Mehra being beaten up by the mob.
According to official sources, the police could only present five witnesses in the case.
Most of the witnesses became incommunicado soon after the commencement of the trial and some of the witnesses of the case, including former sub inspector K.B. Lal, the main complainant in the case, did not appear before the court despite summons. Repeated summons sent by the courts to senior police officials, asking them to produce before court the police officers who had witnessed the incident, evoked no response.
The officials said that as per the FIR of the case, 26 people were named as accused and the names of 54 were added later, but only 29 could be arrested. One accused was arrested in 2006, 19 years after the incident.
However, only five witnesses — Anil Sharma, Pravin Sharma, Manohar Prasad, Iqbal and Babar Ali — who were not a part of the police force, appeared during the trial. These five people, too, were not able to recognise the accused.
“It is very clear that the authorities did not pursue the case diligently. How else can a murder case involving a DSP rank officer drag on for 29 years? And when it has finally ended, all the accused have been acquitted because of shoddy investigation. The government should stop the pension of all those retired police officials who were eyewitnesses in the case, but did not appear in the court,” a senior Bhagalpur-based police official said.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Vivek Kumar, SSP of Bhagalpur and 2007 batch IPS officer, said that the government was likely to appeal against this judgment.
“We have asked the public prosecutor to file an appeal and we are trying to trace every file related to this case. We will also form teams to trace the witnesses in this case and present them before the court,” he said.