Mirchpur Case: A Landmark Judgement for Dalits in Haryana

A Delhi court held 15 of the 97 people guilty of various criminal acts in the case of burning alive of a 70-year-old Dalit and his physically-challenged daughter at Mirchpur village in Haryana last year. Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau, however, did not held guilty either of the 15 accused on charges of murder. Kulwinder, Ramphal and Rajender were convicted under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC for setting ablaze the house of Tara Chand on April 21 following a caste dispute between dominant Jats and Dalits of the village. Out of 15 accused, 12 were convicted on milder charges of arson, rioting and unlawful assembly. The court, in its judgement, pulled up Haryana Police for their role in the case saying "the manner in which the whole thing was handled was improper." The case was transferred to Delhi by the Supreme Court on December 9 last year on the plea of the victims that a fair trial was not possible in Haryana. The court convicted six of the 15 for offences of unlawful assembly, rioting and causing damage to property through stone pelting, while holding other six guilty of setting ablaze houses of the minority community under the IPC. It, however, let off other 82 accused for the want of evidence as the witnesses could not prove that they were part of the mob. Station house officer of Narnaund police station, Vinod K Kajal, was among the accused acquitted of the charges of murder and rioting. The court would now hear on September 29 the arguments on quantum of sentence for the convicts. Three of the 15 convicts, held guilty of committing unintentional killings under section 304 of IPC may get life imprisonment, which is the maximum sentence for the offence. The court had earlier asked the superintendent of Hisar district to take action against the persons, trying to vitiate atmosphere at Mirchpur. The accused were tried under various IPC sections dealing with murder, rioting, making unlawful assembly, promoting enmity between different communities, physical assault, creating mischief and damaging public property. They have also been charged under the Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The accused resorted to rioting and attacked the houses of persons of Valmiki community on April 21 as a pet dog of a Dalit had barked at a group of Jats two days ago when they were passing through the colony, the charge sheet said. The accused got enraged when a Dalit boy objected to hurling of stones by Jat youths on the dog, it said, adding that later it led to the killings of Tara Chand and his physically challenged teenaged daughter.