The Supreme Court continued to hear the matter related to the Lakhimpur Kheri incident where 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 on October 3, 2021.
Yesterday, the court had asked the government to file a status report detailing who had been named in the FIR and whether any arrests had been made by the Police. The government had then said that they will explain it in the report they file. Today, on October 8, the court heard the government counsel and remarked that they are not satisfied with the actions taken by them.
The CJI said, “The government counsel explained the various steps taken by the government. The status report was also filed with effect. But however, we are not satisfied with the actions of the State…”.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government said, “The young man (Ashish Mishra) against whom the allegations have been targeted appears to be a serious problem, we have given him a 160 notice [empowers the police to require the attendance of any person for investigation]…”
The court intervened and said, “Mr. Salve, these are very serious charges…” Salve argued that the accused Ashish Mishra has been asked to go to the police station at 11 A.M tomorrow, for questioning. The CJI NV Ramana intervened to ask, “Is this how other accused persons are treated in other cases? We say we are sending notice…please come [for investigation].”
Salve argued that the post mortem revealed no bullet injuries and hence the government has sent a section 160 of the CrPC notice to the accused. He added, “..but the manner in which the car was driven, leaves no doubt that if allegations are true, it is possibly a case of 302.” (Murder charges under Indian Penal Code).
Justice Hima Kohli took objection to the word “possibly”, to which senior counsel Salve replied that they don’t want to come to any conclusion before the trial starts. Harish Salve further said that the government “should have done the needful” (arrested the accused).
The court said that in normal circumstances, the police would have arrested the accused by now, but the Uttar Pradesh police failed to do so. It observed, “Forget about this case, even in normal circumstances, when there is a murder case registered, the police will immediately apprehend the accused…and here it is a case of brutal murder of 8 persons, where there may be more than one accused, each one has to be immediately arrested.”
To this, Salve said, “What has happened has happened. I am not saying no. I have been assured by the highest level, that between tomorrow and day after, all shortfalls will be filled.”
The court also pointed out that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted by the government, has all local superintendents and police officers. “We have seen details of the SIT, you have DIG, Superintendent of police, all circle officers….all these are local people…this is what happens,” observed the court.
The court then asked the state government if there is a CBI probe request. The government replied in the negative and said that once the court opens after the vacations, it can decide if this needs to be handed over to the central investigation agency.
The CJI replied, “Mr Salve, we have respect for you. We hope the State will take necessary steps due to the sensitivity of the issue. We are not making comments. CBI is not a solution for reasons known to you…..because of the persons who are…. better some other person, some other mode is used to look into this.”
Further, the court refused to hear the counsel of the petitioners in the matter and recorded the submissions made by the government that they will take further “adequate steps”. The Bench then listed the matter on October 20 and also directed the government to protect the evidence and other materials in the case.