'Not Satisfied' By UP Govt's Actions on Lakhimpur Kheri Incident: Supreme Court

The bench asked why Ashish Mishra had not yet been arrested, and whether this is how accused in other murder cases are treated.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed dissatisfaction with how the Uttar Pradesh police and government are investigating the violence at Lakhimpur Kheri on Sunday. Eight people were killed on Sunday – including four protesting farmers mowed down by a VIP cavalcade, including a car allegedly carrying Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana and comprising Justice Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said in its order that it was not satisfied by some actions of the state, LiveLaw reported.

Senior advocate Harish Salve appeared for Uttar Pradesh, and tried to assure the court that appropriate action will be taken. The bench asked why the prime accused named in the murder FIR filed on Monday – the Union minister’s son – had not yet been arrested. Salve told the court that Ashish Mishra had been summoned for questioning but had not appeared yet.

“Is this how you treat accused in other cases? Serve them notice?” CJI Ramana asked Salve in court. Salve said that the police’s post-mortem report showed no gunshot injuries. “We expect this to be a responsible government. When there is a serious allegations of murder and gun shot injury…how the accused in other parts of the country are treated. Please tell us,” the chief justice responded. A post-mortem report not showing gunshot injuries did not seem to be a good enough reason to decide not to arrest the accused, CJI Ramana insinuated in court.

Salve too seemed to admit to the fact that the Uttar Pradesh government had not acted in the way it should. “They should have done the needful,” he told the court, according to LiveLaw. “…they (UP police) is done a hash,” LiveLaw also quoted Salve as saying.

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Salve also said that the possibility of investigation by a different agency will be explored. CJI Ramana, at one point, also said “CBI is also not a solution, for reasons you know”, LiveLaw reported.

On hearing all this, LiveLaw reported, the bench adjourned the matter till October 20. The full order passed by the bench on Friday stated:

“We’ve heard Sr Adv Salve, he explained steps taken filed by State & status report was also filed. However we are not satisfied by steps taken by state. He has ensured steps will be taken by next date, to satisfy this court and alternatives will be considered to have investigation by another agencies. In that view, we’re not inclined to go in detail, list after vacation. Meanwhile, he has ensured that he will communicate to highest police officer in the state to take steps to protect evidence and other materials.”

The bench first heard this case on Thursday, when it asked the Uttar Pradesh government to detail what action had been taken in the case so far and who had been arrested. It was only after this hearing that the police issued summons to Ashish Mishra and arrested two others in connection with the violence.

Ashish was supposed to appear before the police on Friday morning, but has not done so yet.

The Lakhimpur Kheri incident has triggered a major political storm, with opposition parties accusing the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh of shielding the culprits including Ashish. There has been growing outcry about how the state authorities and police are handling the case.

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The Uttar Pradesh government has announced a one-member judicial commission, comprising Allahabad high court judge Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, to probe the incident. The details of the commission were release on Thursday morning, just before the Supreme Court hearing.

An FIR under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (murder) has been registered against Ashish Mishra and others in the incident in the Tikonia police station but no arrest has been made so far. Farmer leaders have claimed that Ashish was in one of the cars that allegedly knocked down the protesters. The minister has denied the allegations and said that their “driver” lost control of the car, but farmers claim they have eyewitness and videographic evidence placing Ashish at the spot.