Indian police have dropped murder charges against 11 individuals accused of involvement in the killing of a Muslim man who was tortured and forced to chant Hindu slogans in June, Scroll.in reported on Tuesday.
Quoting The Indian Express, the publication reported that police in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand said one of the reasons that charges had not been filed under Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the Indian Penal Code was because a post-mortem examination attributed Tabrez Ansari's death to a cardiac arrest.
Earlier, two police officers were suspended over the handling of the lynching of Ansari, captured on a video that went viral on Indian social media.
The 24-year-old was seen in the video crying and pleading as a mob in Jharkhand forced him to chant "Jai Sri Ram" (hail Lord Ram), a slogan widely used by Hindu hardliners.
Ansari had been accused by villagers of carrying out a burglary. He was tied to a pole and beaten for up to 12 hours before police first detained him in Seraikela, and then took him to hospital — where he died.
Media reports said Ansari's wife had accused police of deliberately taking him to jail first — instead of a hospital — despite the critical injuries he had suffered.
According to Scroll.in, the accused in the case were charged under Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code instead of Section 302.
Saraikela-Kharsawan police Superintendent Karthik S gave two reasons for filing charges under Section 304.
"One, he did not die at the spot […] the villagers did not have any intent to kill Ansari," Karthik was quoted as saying by Scroll.in. "Second, the medical report did not substantiate the murder charge."
According to the police official, the final post-mortem report said that Ansari died because of a cardiac arrest and the haemorrhage in his head was not fatal.
"The second medical opinion said the cause of death was a combination of cardiac arrest and the head injury," he said.
Following Ansari's killing, the opposition Congress party had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of failing to protect Muslims and other minorities.
"Can the BJP government honestly refute the US government report on minority safety when Muslims and Dalits are being openly lynched every other day?" Shama Mohamed, a spokesperson for Congress, had said at the time.
But Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had condemned the killing and said the government would not let a "destructive agenda" dominate India's development efforts.
"People who are involved in such incidents have only one motive — to spoil the positive atmosphere created by the government," he said.