Retired High Court Judge Rakesh Kumar Jain will monitor the investigation into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that claimed at least eight lives, said the Supreme Court on November 17, 2021.
After a month of dissatisfactory investigation regarding the alleged mowing down of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N. V. Ramana advised the state government to allow a retired judge to monitor the proceedings of the Special Investigation Team (SIT). The suggestion that was made on November 8 was finally accepted by state representative senior advocate Harish Salve on October 15.
Thereafter, the Supreme court discussed two possible candidates and settled on Justice Jain, who joined the High Court of Punjab and Haryana on December 5, 2007 and retired on September 30, 2020.
According to Bar and Bench, the Bench said, “Justice Jain manned Commission will ensure impartiality and independence of the investigation…The investigation will be by SIT under Justice Jain and matter will be listed after chargesheet is filed.”
Moreover, the Bench also included IPS officers Padmaja Chauhan, S. B. Shirodkar and Deepinder Singh in the SIT after it pointed out that most members in the team were Sub-Inspectors from the Lakhimpur Kheri region.
The Supreme Court took these actions after repeated criticisms of the state government for “dragging its feet” in this case. As many as eight peacefully protesting farmers were allegedly mowed down by Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish in the presence of a crowd. Yet, the main accused, Ashish, was only brought in for questioning nearly a week after the incident.
Seeking a fair trial, farmers have repeatedly asked that his father be removed from his position in the Union Cabinet. Leaders called it “shameful” that Mishra remained in a position of power despite facing allegations from farmers of causing the killings.
On November 15, a sessions court denied bail to Ashish Mishra and two other accused Luv Kush and Ashish Pandey. Taking note of the incident, farmers group Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) said, “What is noteworthy is that the prosecution, while presenting its arguments against the bail application moved by the accused, argued that the mowing down and killing/injuring of farmers appears to be a well-worked-out conspiracy and not a mere accident.”
As for the investigation, so far only three phones have been seized although a forensic report of only one phone is available. The Bench had already voiced concerns in this regard on October 20 when it considered how some accused were placed in police custody and others in judicial custody and the submission of the SIT report in a sealed cover.
The order may be read here.