'Need to Upgrade SIT,' SC Tells UP; to Announce Name of Retired Judge to Monitor Lakhimpur Probe

The bench observed that the SIT consists primarily of officers of the grade of sub-inspectors and asked for names of IPS officers who are not from the state but belong to the UP cadre.

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New Delhi: Calling for an “upgrade” of the probe team, the Supreme Court said that it will, on Wednesday, announce the name of the retired judge who will monitor the investigation into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that killed eight people, including four farmers who were allegedly mowed down by the convoy of a Union minister’s son.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, and also comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli observed that the Special Investigation Team set up by Uttar Pradesh police to look into the violence at Lakhimpur Kheri, on October 3, consists primarily of officers of the grade of sub-inspectors and who are from the Lakhimpur Kheri region itself.

The apex court had expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Uttar Pradesh police’s action and investigation into the case in earlier hearing. The main accused in the case is Ashish Mishra, the son of Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra. Ashish was arrested for murder by UP police on October 9.

LiveLaw has reported that the bench asked senior advocate Harish Salve who was representing the Uttar Pradesh government, to circulate the names of IPS officers of the Uttar Pradesh cadre but who are not from Uttar Pradesh for inclusion into the SIT.

Salve, on behalf of Uttar Pradesh government, also informed the court that it agreed to the Supreme Court suggestion that a former judge of its choice may be appointed to supervise the SIT’s probe on day-to-day basis.

The bench then said that it will have to take the consent of the judge concerned – it was considering Justice Rakesh Jain – and will consider names before announcing one on Wednesday, the next day of the hearing.

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Salve said Uttar Pradesh had no issues with the apex court appointing a former judge of its choice to monitor the probe, but sought to play down the place of origin of the judge.

“If I make a suggestion, your lordship is appointing an appropriate person…It is the person who matters. Your lordship may appoint a judge from any state,” he said, according to LiveLaw.

The request for a retired judge to monitor the investigation was also made by senior advocate Arun Bharadwaj, who was appearing for the widow of one of the eight killed in the incident.

“We’ll look into it, we can consider it. Let’s see which Judge will accept the assignment,” the CJI said, according to LiveLaw.

The apex court, on November 8, had expressed dissatisfaction with the probe and suggested that to infuse “independence, impartiality and fairness in the ongoing investigation, a former judge of a different high court should monitor it on day-to-day basis.

On October 20, the court had rapped the Uttar Pradesh government, saying the Adityanath dispensation was “dragging its feet.”

The bench had also said that it has no confidence and does not want the one-member judicial commission appointed by the state to continue probe into the case.

Retired Allahabad high court judge Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava had initially been named by the state government to enquire into the violence.

(With PTI inputs)