The Supreme Court will resume hearing in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case today, a week after it observed that the probe should not be an ‘unending story’ and rapped the Uttar Pradesh police, saying the court was getting the impression that the police was dragging its feet.
Noting that the UP government is required to “dispel” that impression, the top court had on October 20 said the state should ensure recording of statements of witnesses before magistrates and their protection. It also directed the government to ensure the protection of witnesses.
“We think you are dragging your feet, please dispel that impression,” observed the top court, and red-flagged the issue of non-recording of statements of nearly 40 prosecution witnesses, of the total 44, before judicial magistrates under section 164 of the CrPC.
“Please ask them to immediately take steps to record section 164 statements. That is the most important thing protection to the victims as well as the witnesses,” said the bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli. Statements under section 164 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) are recorded before a judicial magistrate and they have evidentiary value.
The apex court, hearing a matter relating to the October 3 violence in Lakhimpur Kheri in which eight persons including four farmers were killed during a farmers’ protest, was told by the state government that statements of four out of the 44 witnesses have been recorded by the judicial magistrate.
Ten people, including Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, have been arrested in connection with the violence that has triggered a political slugfest ahead of the crucial Assembly elections in the state.
The court had also raised the issue of filing of status report on the day of hearing with the CJI observing, “we waited till 1 AM last night for any filing. But we received nothing”.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing along with advocate Garima Prasad for the state government, had tolf the court that status report was filed in a sealed cover on Wednesday (October 19) because of the impression that it was for the perusal of the court only.