The Supreme Court has orally remarked that the UP Police are dragging their feet in their investigation into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, where peacefully marching farmers were allegedly run over by a powerful minister’s son.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, questioned Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for UP government, as to why statements of only four witnesses were recorded so far.
While Salve tried to reason that courts are closed due to Dussehra vacation, the bench pointed out that criminal courts are not closed in vacations. Senior Advocate Garima Prashad, also appearing for UP government tried to reason that it was because the police were recreating the crime scene. To this, the bench pointed out that both recording of statements and recreating crime scene are mutually exclusive and are two different things.
It was after such comments from the state counsels, Justice Hima Kohli remarked, “We get the impression that you are dragging your feet, please do the needful to dispel that,” reported LiveLaw.
The bench pointed out that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) will have to identify the vulnerable witnesses and afford them protection and get their statements recorded under Section 164 CrPC, as it will have more evidentiary value.
When the bench was presented with a status report in a sealed cover by Salve, CJI Ramana said that the bench waited for additional material until the previous night and commented that it did not seek a report in sealed cover.
Based on the sealed status report, Salve was seeking an adjournment for Friday, however, the bench refused and perused the status report to continue with the hearing.
When Salve informed the bench that in the case so far four persons were in police custody and six were in judicial custody, the bench questioned that as well, and sought to know why weren’t all accused kept in police custody for questioning. Ashish Mishra was kept in police custody for three days and then remanded to judicial custody.
Salve responded that the phones have been seized and if forensic reports arrive, there may no longer be need for further questioning.
The court scheduled the matter for hearing on October 26 and Salve assured the bench that more statements will be recorded under section 164 CrPC to dispel the doubts of the bench.
At the previous hearing as well, the bench was not much pleased with the manner in which UP Police were handling the investigation and had questioned why Ashish Mishra was not taken into custody.
The bench had also expressed its discontent that the SIT comprised all local superintendents and police officers, and had asked whether CBI probe was to be initiated.
On October 7, the court had taken up the matter as a public interest litigation on the basis of a letter written by two advocates, Shiv Kumar Tripathi and Amritpal Singh.
On October 3, 2021, a convoy of vehicles associated with BJP’s Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra Teni, his son Ashish Mishra Teni, and other goons allegedly ran over several farmers, peacefully protesting at Tikonia in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. As reported in the media, one of the farmers was shot dead by the son of the union minister. In addition to this, four farmers and one local journalist were killed in the incident, and several others were seriously injured.
The order may be read here: