The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for “dragging its feet" while investigating the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, in which eight persons were killed, and asked it to “dispel that impression”.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli was hearing a petition on the basis of letters seeking registration of an FIR in the matter as well as punishment to the guilty parties involved in the incident in which Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra is accused of running over farmers during a protest on October 3.
Ashish Mishra was arrested on October 11, three days after the Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction with the Uttar Pradesh government’s action.
Appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, Senior Advocate Harish Salve informed the Court that he had submitted a report on the incident in a sealed cover. In response, CJI Ramana said, “No, that was not required and we have just received it now…We waited till 1 AM last night for any filing. But we received nothing."
Salve then apprised the Court on the status of the accused. “A concern was stated that the State was going soft on the accused, now everybody is arrested and they are in jail. As of today, there are 10 accused inside jail. There are two crimes which was driving into farmers and the other one in which a person was lynched," he said.
The Court then noted that out of forty-four witnesses, statements of only four were recorded to which Salve said of the ten accused, four were in police custody. “What about the other six? You did not seek custody so they were sent to judicial custody. What is the situation in this case?" the court then asked.
Salve added that the statements of other witnesses were being recorded, but the courts had shut. This did not go down well with the bench as Justice Kohli asked, “Criminal courts closed for Dussehra vacations?”
At Salve’s request for time to record statements of witnesses, the Court adjourned the matter to October 26.
On the last date of hearing, the Court expressed its displeasure with the manner in which the Uttar Pradesh government and police were handling the probe into the incident.
On October 7, the Court sought a status report from the Uttar Pradesh government on the FIR registered and arrests made in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.