Saturday, December 3, 2022

Lakhimpur Kheri violence case: Allahabad High Court rejects bail applications of accused

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The Allahabad High Court has rejected the bail applications of the accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case.

A single-judge bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh passed this order while hearing a Criminal Misc Bail Application filed by Ankit Das and other connected bail applications.

The Criminal Misc Bail Applications under Section 439 Cr.P.C has been filed seeking bail in case under Sections 147, 148, 149, 307, 302, 34, 326, 427, 120-B IPC, Section 30 Arms Act, 1959 and Section 177 Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, Police Station Tikonia, District Kheri.

Most of the facts are common in all the four aforesaid bail applications and, therefore, stated at the beginning. As per the allegations in the FIR, on 3.10.2021, the local farmers and labourers got collected in a large number in the playground of Maharaja Agrasen Inter College, Tikonia, Kheri to show black flags to Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra @ Teni and Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy Chief Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh in a peaceful manner.

The main accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu, son of the Union Minister of State for Home in 3-4 four wheeler vehicles having 15-20 unknown persons armed with fire arms came in a high speed from Banveerpur to the meeting ground of the farmers and the labourers. Ashish Mishra @ Monu was sitting on the left side of his Mahendra Thar vehicle and he was firing from a firearm in his hand. His car was moving forward crushing the protesters. As a result of firing, farmer Gurvinder Singh S/o Sukhvinder Singh, resident of Village Matronia, Nanpara, aged about 22 years died on the spot and the other vehicles also crushed the farmers/protesters standing on both the sides of the road.

It is further alleged that because of the high speed of the vehicle Mahindra Thar, on which the accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu was sitting and firing, lost its control and fell down in a trench, as a result thereof, many bystanders received serious injuries. Accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu taking cover while firing, went inside a sugarcane field.

The informant further said that in the incident, altogether four farmers had died whose names were gives as Gurvinder Singh S/o Sukhvinder Singh, resident of Village Matronia, Nanpara, aged about 22 years, Daljeet Singh S/o Hari Singh, resident of Village Banjara Tanda, Nanpara, aged about 35 years, Nakshatra Singh S/o Sukha Singh, resident of Village Namdapurwa Dhaurahra Tehsil (Kheri) and Lovepreet Singh S/o Satnam Singh, resident of Village Chowkadafarm, Palia Kalan, Kheri. Many other farmers had also received serious injuries.

It is further said that before the date of incident, in a viral video, the Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra @ Teni had given threat to the farmers that the farmers would be expelled and chased away from the State. Enraged and agitated by the threats and utterances of the Union Minister of State for Home, the farmers decided to organize a protest meeting against the said threats of the Union Minister of State for Home.

It is alleged that emboldened and encouraged by the said fact. Union Minister’s son, Ashish Mishra @ Monu along with other co-accused in order to show his power, might, strength, dominance and hegemony, has committed the diabolic and barbaric crime of crushing the innocent farmers staging peaceful protest against the Union Minister of State for Home.

During this gathering, the farmers had taken objection to certain comments/threats allegedly made/given by Ajay Mishra @ Teni, Union Minister of State for Home. In the course of the meeting, the farmers had decided to organize a protest against Ajay Mishra @ Teni in his ancestral village on 3.10.2021. Various farmers’ organizations issued appeals to their members and supporters to participate in the demonstration, and pamphlets were also distributed.

On 3.10.2021, an annual wrestling competition was being organized by Ashish Mishra @ Monu. The programme was to be attended by his father, Ajay Mishra, Union Minister of State for Home as well as by Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy Chief Minister of the State of Uttar Pradesh. A helipad was constructed on the playground of Maharaja Agrasen Inter College, Tikonia. A crowd of farmers started gathering near the helipad in the morning of 3.10.2021 and they dug up the helipad. As the helicopter carrying the Deputy Chief Minister could not land because of the presence of the large number of the protesters and also as the helipad was dug up, it was decided that the Chief Guest would travel by road to reach the venue of wrestling competition. The road route was, however, passing in front of the Maharaja Agrasen Inter College, where the protesting farmers had gathered and thus, the authorities decided to take the Chief Guest, Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy Chief Minister from another alternate route, which was kept secret. This alternate route of travel for Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy Chief Minister was made known to the organizers i.e Ashish Mishra @ Monu and others and, it was also made known to Ajay Mishra @ Teni, Union Minister of State for Home.

It is said that some supporters of Ashish Mishra @ Monu, who were travelling by a Car to the wrestling venue, were attacked by certain farmers. The mirrors of their vehicles were smashed. A hoarding board displaying pictures of Ajay Mishra and accused, Ashish Mishra was also damaged.

It is alleged that these events and the actions of protesting farmers, enraged the accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu. He, therefore, conspired with his aides and confidants and decided to teach the protesting farmers a lesson.

It is also alleged that the accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu and his aides armed with weapons, left the wrestling competition venue in vehicles as mentioned in the FIR and drove at a very high speed towards the Maharaja Agrasen Inter College. When the farmers were returning to their homes after their protest was over, the accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu with his associates, who were in the aforesaid three vehicles, allegedly drove into the crowd of the returning farmers and hit and crushed them with an intention to kill. As a result, many farmers and others were crushed by the speeding vehicles. After the Thar vehicle was eventually stopped, accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu and co-accused, Sumit Jailswal stepped out of the Thar vehicle and escaped running towards a nearby sugarcane field while taking cover by firing from their weapons. As a consequence of this incident, four farmers, one journalist, the driver of the Thar vehicle, Hariom and two others were killed and nearly ten farmers suffered major and minor injuries.

The FIR came to be registered on the next day i.e 4.10.2021 on a written complaint of accused-applicant, Sumit Jaiswal against unknown miscreants.

In the said FIR, it was alleged that on 3.10.2021, the complainant (Sumit Jaiswal) was present in the wrestling competition, and the huge public meeting was organized in the ancestral village of the Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra @ Teni.

In the said programme, the Chief Guest was Keshav Prasad Maurya, Deputy Chief Minister. It was said that the complainant (Sumit Jaiswal) was going along with BJP workers to welcome the Chief Guest near ‘Kalesaran Turn’. The complainant was sitting in Thar vehicle along with driver Hariom. His friend, Shubham Mishra was also sitting in the said vehicle. When the complainant (Sumit Jaiswal) and his friends in Thar vehicle reached near ‘Tikonia Turn’, the protesters attacked their Mahindra Thar with Lathi, Bricks and Stones etc. Driver Hariom received head injury and he stopped the Car in a corner and, thereafter, the miscreants dragged the driver from the Car and started assaulting him with Lathi, Danda and Sword etc.

It was further said that the complainant, his friends and the BJP workers tried to run away from there facing threats to their lives from continuous pelting of bricks and stones on them. However, the miscreants caught hold of Shubham Mishra and they started assaulting him.

It was further said that anyhow the complainant could escape and ran away from there, otherwise he could have also been killed by the miscreants. It is further said that, thereafter, the complainant could come to know that his friend, Shubham Mishra and the driver of the vehicle, Hariom had been killed. It was also said that two other BJP workers were killed by the miscreants/protesters.

The FIR came to be registered on the next day, in which it did not mention the name of the main accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu, who was sitting in the Mahindra Thar vehicle, which crushed several farmers and injured many.

The Court observed that a counter narrative was tried to be created to save the son of the Union Minister of State for Home with the help of the local police and create a false narrative that Ashish Mishra was not present when the alleged incident took place on 3.10.2021. Another important aspect of the matter is that the Deputy Chief Minister, the Chief Guest had to travel from another route and not from the route, where the farmers were staging a protest. This fact of alternate route was made known to the organizers of wrestling competition, including Sri Ajay Mishra @ Teni, Union Minister of State for Home and Ashish Mishra @ Monu by the District Administration.

I.B. Singh, Senior Advocate, assisted by Pranshu Agarwal and Gopal Swaroop Chaturvedi, Senior Advocate appearing for the accused submitted that accused applicant, Ankit Das is a businessman of Lucknow and belongs to a well known political family of the State. His grandfather was Chief Minister of the State. Accused-applicant Ankit Das reached the venue of the wrestling competition unaware of any resentment of the farmers with the Union Minister of State for Home.

He further submitted that the alleged incident of hitting and crushing the farmers had taken place with the pilot Car. The accused-applicant, Ankit Das was not sitting in the Thar vehicle. The only allegation against the accused applicant is that he followed the Thar vehicle, in which the main accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu was travelling. Further, the accused applicant’s car did not crush any farmer.

He has also submitted that none of the injured witnesses have named the accused-applicant. Only two witnesses, namely, Satnam Singh and Baljeet Singh had stated that they had seen the accused-applicant, Ankit Das running away from the place of incident while firing from his firearm i.e pistol.

Senior Advocate for the accused-applicant further submitted that the medical evidence i.e post-mortem report and the injury reports of the deceased and injured of the FIR lodged by Jagjeet Singh on 4.10.2021 would falsify the genesis of the prosecution case inasmuch as no fire arm injury was received by any of the deceased or injured from the weapon of the accused-applicant.

It has further been submitted that accused applicant, Ankit Das had become the victim of unfortunate circumstances. Accused-applicant is a sports lover and friend of Ashish Mishra @ Monu, went to watch the wrestling competition. Accused-applicant has responded to the notice given under Section 160 Cr.P.C and appeared voluntarily before Special Investigation Team, where he was arrested on 13.10.2021.

It is also submitted that the accused-applicant has no criminal history and he has deep roots in the society. The accused applicant is not in a position to influence the witnesses or interfere in the trial and there is no chance of him fleeing from justice, therefore, the accused-applicant should be enlarged on bail.

V.K Shahi, Additional Advocate General appearing for the State has submitted that in view of the farmers agitation in the area, provisions of Section 144 Cr.P.C were clamped.

The Court specifically put a question to the Additional Advocate General that when Section 144 Cr.P.C was invoked, how wrestling competition was permitted, which was organized by the main accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu, S/o Ajay Mishra @ Teni, Union Minister of State for Home, to which he has no answer.

In respect of no gun shot injury on the deceased, Additional Government Advocate has submitted that the informant was not an eyewitness to the incident and, therefore, the FIR version was on hearsay basis.

“Political persons holding high offices, should make public utterances in a decent language considering its repercussions in the Society. They should not make irresponsible statements as they are required to conduct themselves befitting their status and dignity of high office which they hold. As submitted, this incident might not have taken place if the Union Minister of State for Home did not make alleged utterances as has been pointed out in the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Investigating Agency and also mentioned in the charge-sheet. Several innocent lives would not have got lost in a most cruel, diabolic, barbaric, gruesome and inhuman manner allegedly by his very promising son and other accused.

It has been stated in the charge-sheet that the farmers got agitated and they were protesting peacefully against the statement of the Union Minister of State for Home, who allegedly said that the farmers would be expelled and chased away from District Kheri. This is also quite intriguing that when Section 144 Cr.P.C was clamped in the area, why wrestling competition was not cancelled. The law makers cannot be seen to be law violators. This Court cannot believe that it would not have been within the knowledge of the Deputy Chief Minister of the State that in the area provisions of Section 144 Cr.P.C were clamped and any assembly or gathering was prohibited. Despite this, the wrestling competition was organized and the Union Minister of State for Home and the Deputy Chief Minister decided to be present as Chief Guest etc. in the event,” the Court said.

“I have perused the charge-sheet and the evidence collected by the Special Investigation Team. The Special Investigation Team deserves full credit for carrying out free, fair, impartial and scientific investigation of the offence. The charge-sheet would disclose overwhelming evidence against the accused-applicant and other co accused for commission of the offence, which has been termed cruel, diabolic, brutal, barbaric, depraved, gruesome and inhumane. Five people lost their lives by the alleged dastardly act of the accused applicant and other co-accused. The accused-applicant and the main accused, Ashish Mishra @ Monu belong to very influential political families as said and apprehension of the prosecution then interfering with the course of justice, tampering with the evidence and influencing the witnesses, cannot be ruled out at this stage.

In view thereof, I do not find it to be a fit case where the accused applicant can be enlarged on bail,” the Court further observed while rejecting the bail application.

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