Lakhimpur Kheri Case: Supreme Court directs Uttar Pradesh govt to protect witnesses

Lakhimpur Kheri Case: Supreme Court directs Uttar Pradesh govt to protect witnesses

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and others on a plea seeking to cancel bail to Ashish Mishra, who is the son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana asked the UP government to file a detailed counter reply and directed that it should protect the witnesses in the matter. The Court noted the submission of the petitioner that the witness has been attacked.

The Court listed the matter for March 24 for further hearing.

In the last hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, said that one of the prime protected witnesses was brutally attacked, a few days after bail was granted to Ashish Mishra.

Family members of victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident have moved Supreme Court challenging Allahabad High Court order, which granted bail to Ashish Mishra.

In the Special Leave Petition, family members of the deceased have challenged the Allahabad High Court order dated February 10 2022, wherein Ashish Mishra was granted regular bail.

The petitioner said that the Allahabad High Court order is “unsustainable in law.” They also said that they have approached the apex court as Uttar Pradesh has failed to prefer any appeal against the impugned order.

“The lack of any discussion in the High Court’s order as regards the settled principles for grant of bail is on account of lack of any substantive submissions to this effect by the State as the accused wields substantial influence over the State government as his father is a Union Minister from the same political party that rules the State,” said the petition.

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“The impugned order is unsustainable in eyes of law as there has been no meaningful and effective assistance by the State to the court in the matter contrary to object of first Proviso to Section 439 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which provides that in grave offences notice of bail application should ordinarily be given to the Public Prosecutor,” said the petitioner.

“Even the victims were prevented from bringing the relevant material as regards the settled principles for grant of bail to notice of High Court as their counsel ‘got’ disconnected from the hearing on 18.01.2022 before he could barely make any submissions and repeated calls to the court staff to get reconnected were to no avail and application filed by the victims/petitioners,” the petition said.

“Contrary to settled law, the High Court failed to form its opinion on the basis of the chargesheet on broad probabilities and has instead gone on the basis of far fetched imaginary possibilities. The observation of High Court that, “there might be a possibility that the driver tried to speed up the vehicle to save himself, on account of which, the incident had taken place”, is perverse especially when there was nothing on record to show the same and there is evidence in fact in the chargesheet to the contrary showing that the vehicles had been dashing at high speeds of 70-100 km/hr from the time they left the venue of the ‘dangal’; when they passed the petrol pump; when they crossed the police crossing; all the way to the scene of the crime; and the same has been attested to by various eye witnesses including police officials on duty,” the petition said.

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The petitioner said that Allahabad High Court has not considered the heinous nature of the crime; the character of the overwhelming evidence against the accused in the chargesheet; position and status of the accused with reference to the victim and witnesses; the likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice and repeating the offence; and the possibility of his tampering with the witnesses and obstructing the course of justice, while granting relief to accused.

Ashish Mishra was released from jail in February after Allahabad High Court granted him bail. Eight people, including four farmers, had died in violence on October 3, 2020, in Lakhimpur Kheri. 

The Supreme Court will now hear the plea seeking to cancel bail to Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra tomorrow.

first published:March 16, 2022, 1:32 p.m.

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