The Uttar Pradesh government appears to be “dragging its feet” in the investigation into the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, Bar and Bench reported.
Eight people were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3 during a protest against the three farm laws. Four of them were farmers.
A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Hima Kohli and Surya Kant had taken up the matter on October 7 after two lawyers sought the Supreme Court’s intervention in the case.
On Wednesday, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, told the court that he has filed a report about the violence in a sealed cover.
However, Chief Justice Ramana said that the bench had just received the report. “We waited till 1 am last night for any filing,” he said. “But we received nothing.”
Justice Kant added that the bench “never said anything about sealed covers”.
The court also questioned why the statements of only four out of 44 witnesses have been recorded so far. It sought to know why the prosecution did not seek police custody of six accused persons who are in judicial custody.
The court observed that the Special Investigation Team in Lakhimpur Kheri violence case will have to protect vulnerable witnesses, Live Law reported.
“Your SIT can recognise who are the most vulnerable witnesses and can be browbeaten...then why only four witness statements have been recorded?” Justice Surya Kant asked Salve.
Salve claimed that this happened because courts were closed for Dussehra holidays, Live Law reported. He sought more time to record the statements, after which the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing to October 26.
Farmer bodies have alleged that a vehicle which was part of Union minister Ajay Mishra’s convoy ran over protestors who were holding demonstrations against the Centre’s farm laws. They claimed that the vehicle belonged to his son Ashish Mishra, who has been arrested.
On October 7, the Supreme Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to submit a status report on the First Information Reports filed in the case, details of the accused persons and the arrests made in the matter.
The Supreme Court, in the previous hearing on October 8, had said that it was not satisfied with the steps taken by the Uttar Pradesh government in the investigation of the violence.
However, the bench led by the chief justice said that an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation is not a solution because of the persons involved.
Union minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra has been booked on multiple charges, including murder and criminal conspiracy, in connection with the violence.
On October 8, the Supreme Court asked why the accused person had not been arrested yet.
“What is the message that we are sending?” the court had asked Uttar Pradesh. “In normal circumstances, if a 302 case [murder] is registered, what will the police do? Go and arrest the accused.”
The police arrested Ashish Mishra on October 9.
The court had also seemed dissatisfied with the fact that the members of the Special Investigation Team constituted to look into the violence were local police officers from Lakhimpur.
The court asked the state to ensure that the evidence in the case was protected till another agency took over the investigation.