The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to protect the witnesses in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case, Live Law reported.

A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli was hearing a plea seeking to cancel the bail granted by the Allahabad High Court to Union minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, who has been accused of murder and criminal conspiracy in the case.

The judges also issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government to file its response in the matter.

The case pertains to killing of four farmers and a journalist during a protest against the three farm laws that have now been repealed. A total of eight people died in violence that followed the protest at Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district on October 3.

Farmer bodies had alleged that a vehicle belonging to Ashish Mishra had run over the protestors. He had been arrested on October 9. He walked out of jail on February 15 after the Allahabad High Court granted him bail on February 10.

Families of the deceased farmers had challenged the bail order in the Supreme Court last month.

On March 11, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, had told the court that a prime witness of the case had been attacked.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Ramana told the Uttar Pradesh government’s counsel to file a counter affidavit to the plea seeking cancellation of the bail and ensure that the witnesses are protected.

“Madam what is this?” he asked Advocate Ruchira Goel. “They are saying a witness has been attacked. You have to file detailed counter. See that witnesses are protected.”

The matter will next be heard on March 24.