Jharkhand High Court has recently noted that the Jharkhand police tried to protect those accused of lynching Rupesh Pandey to death. In order to ensure a fair investigation and justice, the court also ordered the CBI to take over the case.

The court noted, “At first glance, it looks like the police are not looking into the subject objectively and are being swayed by certain people. The incident was sufficiently concerning that both the Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Children took notice and dispatched representatives to the area’s Hazaribagh district”.

Urmila Devi, the mother of the now-deceased Pandey, filed a criminal writ petition, which the court was now hearing. Justice Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi questioned why the committee of top police officers had not evaluated the situation even if the charge sheet in the case had not been produced within 90 days.
The single justice bench noted that out of the 27 accused, the police had only filed charges against five of them. The validity of the counter-FIR filed by a member of the opposing Muslim group was also questioned by the court. It was submitted two days following Rupesh Pandey’s lynching.

The court observed, “In such a case that has taken place by way of mob lynching what step senior police officers have taken to conclude the investigation at the earliest, that has not been disclosed in the counter-affidavit? When the incident took place on February 6, 2022, the entire police administration, as well as the district administration, swung into action, why the arson case made by another community, has not been registered on the same day, raised eyebrows among the police and on the complaint by another community another F.I.R. was registered on February 8.”

On February 6, while a Saraswati Visarjan procession was going from Lakhna Dulmaha Imambada of the Nai Taand hamlet in Hazaribagh, Rupesh Pandey was killed by an Islamist mob. After that, he was taken to the hospital, where he was declared dead.

The relatives of the deceased reportedly met with Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and requested a CBI investigation into the murder, according to an exclusive report by Lagatar 24. Regarding a counter-affidavit submitted by the state government, the court noted that the state made an effort to defend the accused.

The court added, “Paragraph 59 of the counter-affidavit, who has sworn the affidavit has stated therein that investigating agency to proceed in its manner in the interrogation of the accused and that in course of investigation to be adopted in a particular case should be left to the discretion and wisdom of the investigating agency. The question remains if such statement is being made on affidavit by the Investigating Officer before the Court which suggests that the Investigating Officer has to say that inquiry should be left to the discretion of the said I.O. which is negated by the Court in view of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Sidhartha Vashisht and Manu Sharma.”

In the interim, the bench also brought up a spate of post-election violence in West Bengal that resulted in the deaths of opposition party workers, and it ordered a CBI investigation to ensure a fair investigation. Justice Sanjay Dwivedi pointed out that a similar circumstance occurred in West Bengal when political party activists were killed, causing a disturbance. The court stated that “a similar problem arose when the families of the victims did not trust the state police.”

The court further stated that mob lynching was a serious crime and that it was becoming more likely. The court ruled that self-proclaimed guardians of public morals who engage in mob violence and criminal activity intimidate regular citizens without incurring legal repercussions, causing fatalities and extensive property damage.

The mother of now-deceased Rupesh Pandey had already called for a CBI investigation into the issue and expressed dissatisfaction with the Police investigation. She had called for harsh punishment for those responsible for Rupesh’s death during the Saraswati Puja Visarjan procession in Jharkhand. The violent killing of Rupesh Pandey had also been brought to the attention of India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which had asked the police for a report on their course of action.

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