The Gujarat High Court on Monday granted regular bail to four main accused in the July 2016 case of flogging Dalit men by purported cow vigilantes in Una in Gir Somnath district.

The accused have spend six years, more than half of the maximum punishment they could get for the offences charged.

The Bench of Justice Nikhil S. Kariel observed that the petitioners have already undergone pre-conviction imprisonment of almost six years, and the trial in the case has not progressed substantially.

The accused are alleged to be part of a group of purported cow vigilantes who assaulted some Dalit men for skinning a cow carcass at Mota Samadhiyala village on July 11, 2016. The High Court on Monday granted regular bail to the four main accused while barring them from entering Gir Somnath district till the depositions of the first informant and the victims were over in the trial court.

The accused Ramesh Jadav, Pramodgiri Goswami, Balwantgiri Goswami and Rakesh Joshi have been allowed to enter the district only to attend the trial court hearings.

While granting bail, the High Court observed that the accused have spent six years in jail, which is more than the maximum of five years in the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and more than half of the maximum 10 years under sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 395 (dacoity) of the Indian Penal Code under which they were booked.

The High Court also issued notice to the secretary of the state Legal Department, seeking a response by August 5, and directed him to make appropriate arrangements for the conclusion of the trial.

In the incident, videos of which caused outrage across the nation, the victims were tied to a vehicle and thrashed for allegedly skinning a slaughtered cow, after which a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged at Una police station.

The High Court said it had found the special public prosecutor appointed in the case was not present on several occasions at the trial court.

It directed the state to ensure he remains present before the sessions court on each date, except for any unforeseen emergency. The High Court also sought details from the trial court regarding the witnesses yet to be examined and a timeline for completion of the trial.

"By the returnable date, the Secretary, Legal Department, State of Gujarat, shall make appropriate arrangement for conclusion of the trial and if the State intends to retain the same learned Public Prosecutor, then the State shall ensure that the learned Special Public Prosecutor remain present before the learned Sessions Court on each and every date, except in case of any unforeseen emergency and whereas the Secretary, Legal Department shall assure cooperation by the Special Public Prosecutor i.e. either the present Special Public Prosecutor or any other Special Public Prosecutor as may be appointed by the State", the Court directed.

Apart from highlighting the pre-conviction imprisonment, the petitioners' lawyer RJ Goswami had also submitted that the trial had not moved at a reasonable pace. The prosecution had opposed the bail plea stating the allegations against them were of very serious crime and that they were "principal perpetrators" of the crime.

The accused were also part of a conspiracy whose aim went beyond causing injuries and humiliation to the first informant and the victims, the prosecution said.

Cause Title: Rameshbhai Bhagwanbhai Jadav v. The State of Gujarat & Anr.

Click here to read/download Order

With PTI inputs