The Delhi High Court on Friday held 20 more people guilty of killing a 60-year-old Dalit man and his physically-challenged daughter at Mirchpur village in Haryana’s Hisar district in 2010, while dismissing the appeals filed by 15 convicts against the various sentences awarded to them.
The Bench comprising Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta also upheld acquittals of 21 other accused, holding that there was insufficient evidence to establish their guilt.
The house of one Tara Chand was set on fire resulting in burning alive of the father and daughter on April 21, 2010 after a dispute between Jat and Dalit community of the village.
254 families of the Balmiki community then had to flee Mirchpur as a result of the violence which they were subjected to at the hands of the Jat community.
Thereafter, on September 24, 2011, the trial court had convicted 15 of 97 men belonging to the Jat community. They had now challenged their conviction, while the victims and the police had also appealed against the acquittal of the others, as well as for enhancement of the sentences already awarded.
While convicting 20 more people, and dismissing all appeals by those already convicted, the High Court opined that the trial court indulged in “conjectures and surmises”, asserting, “This was an act of deliberate targeting of the Balmiki houses by the Jat community mob and setting them on fire in a pre-planned and carefully orchestrated manner. The entire evidence, if read carefully, more than adequately demonstrates that there was a large scale conspiracy hatched by members of the Jat community to teach the Balmikis a lesson and pursuant to that conspiracy, houses of the Balmiki community were set on fire.”
Absence of fraternity and equality in the Indian society
In doing so, the Court took stock of the current situation of the displaced families, noting that those who decided to stay back at Mirchpur village did not support the prosecution in the present criminal trial, and it was only those who decided not to return who did participate. It further noted that while the Government of Haryana has sought to rehabilitate the displaced families, it is not in Mirchpur but in a separate township.
“The question is whether this accords with the constitutional promise of equality, social justice and fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual,” it observed. The Court then opined that the instances of atrocities against the Scheduled Castes by those belonging to dominant castes still continue, despite 71 years having passed since independence. This, it observed, was evidence of the lack of equality and fraternity in the Indian society.
It observed, “71 years after Independence, instances of atrocities against Scheduled Castes by those belonging to dominant castes have shown no sign of abating. The incidents that took place in Mirchpur between 19th and 21st April 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 25th November 1949. One was ‘equality’ and the other, 'fraternity’.”
Cannot accept allegations of false implications
The Court also refused to accept the allegations of the accused being falsely implicated by the victims, opining that the victims had suffered too huge a personal loss to allow such a finding.
It observed, “The atmosphere of fear created by the members of the dominant Jat community was evidently so severe that the confidence of the members of the Balmiki community about their safety and security in Mirchpur is yet to be restored. It is too cynical to characterise the statements given by many of the victims as having been motivated only by the expectation of the compensation announced by the government. Many of the victims lost their properties, were injured and had their houses burnt.
The trauma and shock of the incident has left such deep scars that many of them could not gather the courage to speak to the police for many days thereafter. It is in this context that the Court is disinclined to accept any of these submissions regarding alleged false implication of the accused by the victims.”
Summary of Court’s findings
The Court summarised its findings as follows: