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Lakhimpur Kheri case: Protect witnesses, Supreme Court tells Uttar Pradesh government

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to provide security to witnesses and gather more information on the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case where a jeep allegedly driven by the son of a BJP leader ran over four farmers on October 3.

The bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli continued hearing in the case, where a total eight people were killed, including a journalist. The Court expressed surprise at the Uttar Pradesh government submission that only 23 witnesses had been traced till now.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, requested to produce the statement recorded before the magistrate in a sealed cover in the Supreme Court and the bench granted the request. The matter is again listed for hearing on November 8. Earlier, Salve said, “We have filed the status report on the incident.” To which, the CJI said, “We expected this a day before. You have filed it at the last minute. We waited till yesterday night, but received nothing.”

Salve added, “A concern was stated that the state was going soft on the accused, now everybody is arrested and they are in jail. As of today, there are 10 accused inside jail. There were two crimes, one driving into farmers and second, in which a person was lynched.”

In the last hearing, the Court had noted that out of 44 witnesses, statement of only four had been recorded so far. To which Salve replied there were two cases registered and in relation to FIR 219, they have arrested 10 persons, out of which four were in police custody.

The bench had also asked why statements under Section 164 CrPC weren’t recorded? Salve replied that courts were closed during vacations. Justice Hima Kohli asked if the criminal courts were also closed during the Dussehra vacations.

The Court in its order noted, “Status report filed has been perused. Senior counsels submits that statements will be recorded under 164, and has sought time to take more instructions. Matter to be taken up next on October 26.” 

 “The highest police officer must protect the evidence in the case. Why wasn’t the accused arrested immediately? Why are they not treated like any other citizen? The local police has not done the job properly,” remarked the CJI in the previous order.

Lakhimpur Kheri case: What has happened so far

On October 9, Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni, was called for interrogation and after interrogating him for hours, the UP Police arrested him and produced him before a Court next day, which sent him to 14-day judicial custody. 

On October 11, he was sent to three-day police remand after UP Police said it wanted to interrogate him about a possible “conspiracy” in the case.

Two more persons have been arrested in the case by SIT, including Ankit Das and Lateef alias Kala. As of now, six persons have been arrested in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri incident case. Both Ankit and Lateef were produced before a local court on October 14, 2021, wherein they were handed over to police custody for three days.

On October 13, 2021, the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Chinta Ram rejected the bail applications of Ashish Mishra and his alleged accomplice Ashish Pandey. Police have intensified probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in Uttar Pradesh and sent all four weapons of Ankit Das and Ashish Misra to the forensic lab for ballistics report.

On October 26, 2021, The Court of Justice directed Uttar Pradesh government to provide security to the witnesses, and gather more information about the incident.

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