The Supreme Court on Monday asked a trial court in Uttar Pradesh to state a tentative time frame for the completing the trial against Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, in the Lakhimpur violence case, Live Law reported.
A bench of Justices Surya Kant and Krishna Murari, however, made clear that the trial court should indicate the time without compromising the schedule of other pending cases.
“In cases of bail, we consider the seriousness of the crime, the period which the trial will take and also the period spent by the accused,” the court said. “How long should he [Ashish] be in prison? Can he be kept indefinitely?... The accused has also rights as the victims.”
The court also directed the trial court to file charges in hearing the second case related to the killing of the occupants of the car, reported PTI.
The Supreme Court is hearing Mishra’s plea challenging an order passed by the Allahabad High Court on July 26 that dismissed his bail application. The High Court had said that there was a possibility that he could influence witnesses if he were to be released.
Eight persons, including four farmers, were killed on October 3 last year after violence broke out in the Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh during a protest against the Centre’s agricultural laws that have now been repealed. Farmer bodies had alleged that a vehicle belonging to Mishra had run over a group of demonstrators.
At Friday’s hearing, Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Ashish Mishra, argued that his client was not present in the vehicle when the incident took place. He claimed that Mishra was at a different venue at the time of the incidents, adding that he could show photographs to prove that.
“This is not a case of somebody pre-planning a murder,” Rohatgi argued before the court, according to Live Law. “I have an alibi. There is no conclusive proof of my client being at the crime site. How is 302 [murder charge] attracted? He has spent over a year in jail.”
However, Uttar Pradesh Advocate General Garima Prasha argued that witnesses have said Mishra was present at the spot.
Meanwhile, Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing on behalf of the families of those killed in the violence, said that the Supreme Court rarely grants bail if it has been rejected by the trial court and high court.
“There is no exception in this case,” Dave said, according to Live Law. “...If someone can kill merely because they are agitating, then nobody is safe in a democracy.”
He also told the bench that there are indications which show that the crime was premeditated.
However, families of those killed in the violence challenged the bail order in the Supreme Court, which overturned the High Court verdict and cancelled Mishra’s bail on April 18. He is currently lodged in Lakhimpur prison.
On December 6, an Uttar Pradesh court had framed charges against 14 persons including Mishra.
Mishra has been charged for a number of offences including murder, attempt to murder, rioting and criminal conspiracy. The trial will begin on December 16.