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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday, November 17, appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, retired judge of Punjab and Haryana high court, to monitor the investigation into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.
The court also appointed three IPS officers to the SIT (special investigation team), LiveLaw has reported.
A detailed order outlining responsibilities, time frame, scope, among other details with respect to both decisions is still awaited.
On October 3, at Lakhimpur Kheri, eight people were killed after a convoy of vehicles allegedly carrying Union of Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra’s son, Ashish, allegedly ran over protesting farmers, killing four.
Ashish Mishra is the prime accused in the case and was arrested for murder on October 9. Twelve others have been arrested in the case.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said the “Justice Jain’s commission will ensure fairness, transparency and absolute impartiality” in the outcome of the investigation, according to Indian Express.
The court further added that the matter will be listed for hearing after a charge sheet is filed based on the status report by Justice Jain.
The apex court’s decision to appoint Justice Jain to head the judicial commission comes after it had objected to the Uttar Pradesh government’s naming of Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, retired Allahabad high court judge, to enquire into the violence.
“To ensure that evidence…are recorded independently and there is no overlapping and there is no intermixing of the evidence, we are trying to appoint a retired judge from a different high court to monitor the investigation on a day-to-day basis. We are not confident…We don’t want judicial commission appointed by your state to continue…” the CJI had said earlier.
Justice Jain began his career as an advocate with the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana in May 1982 and initially practiced at the district court of Hisar. On December 5, 2007, he was elevated as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court and served there until his retirement on September 30, 2020, Indian Express has reported.
IPS officers S.B. Shirodkar, Deepinder Singh and Padmaja Chauhan have been made part of the SIT.
The Supreme Court had earlier expressed dissatisfaction over the composition of the investigating team and said most of the officers in the team were of sub-inspector grade from the Lakhimpur Kheri region, while directing the Uttar Pradesh government to circulate the names of IPS officers from the UP cadre who do not hail from the state.
In the earlier hearings, the court had also slammed the Uttar Pradesh government, stating that it was dissatisfied with the ongoing investigation. It had said forensic lab reports regarding the video evidence did not come yet and that the mobile phones of all accused had not been seized.
On October 20, the court had rapped the Uttar Pradesh government, saying the Adityanath dispensation was “dragging its feet.”
The three-judge bench had expressed concerns that the case against Ashish Mishra, the prime accused, was allowed to get diluted by clubbing the investigation with the counter case of mob lynching.
Calling it a “mixing up of investigation”, Justice Surya Kant, another judge on the bench, had said, “What it appears to us is that this SIT (Special Investigation Team) somehow or the other is unable to maintain investigative distance between the cases.”