The proceedings in the Lakhimpur violence case may take about five years to complete, the trial court hearing the matter told the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Live Law reported. Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, is the main accused person in the case.

“The report of learned additional sessions judge says there are 208 witnesses, 171 documents and 27 FSL [forensic science laboratory] reports,” a bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and V Ramasubramanian said.

On December 12, the Supreme Court had told the additional sessions court to state a time frame within which the trial against Ashish Mishra could be completed without compromising the schedule of other pending cases.

“How long should he [Ashish] be in prison?” the court had said. Can he be kept indefinitely?... The accused has also rights as the victims.” It is currently hearing Mishra’s bail plea.

Eight persons, including four farmers, were killed on October 3, 2021, 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Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh during a protest against the Centre’s agricultural laws that have now been repealed.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 have alleged that a vehicle belonging to Mishra had run over a group of demonstrators.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the families of the victims, sought an adjournment as the lead counsel Dushyant Dave was unwell.

Subsequently, he suggested that the Supreme Court could direct the trial court to examine witnesseson a day-to-day basis, addong that they have earlier been “brutally attacked”.

Sarwajeet Singh, the brother of witness Prabhjeet Singh, was allegedly attacked in December, while Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Dilbag Singh was shot at in June. The farmer leader, however, did not sustain any injuries.

Bhushan on Wednesday argued that Mishra is an influential person and can pose a threat to witnesses if released on bail.

Bhushan then urged the court to post the case for hearing next week as Dave would argue the matter then. The court adjourned the case till January 19.

The case

Mishra was first arrested in the case on October 9, 2021. He walked out of jail on February 15, 2022, five days after the Allahabad High Court granted him bail.

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.