New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday came down heavily on the Uttar Pradesh government for its handling of the probe into Sunday’s deaths in Lakhimpur Kheri.
Calling the loss of eight lives in the incident “brutal murder”, the court asked the Uttar Pradesh government if it treats the accused in other cases in the same manner.
“Is this the same way you treat the accused in other cases as well?” Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana asked senior advocate Harish Salve, who appeared for the Uttar Pradesh government. The question came after Salve told the court that the UP Police has issued summons to the accused to appear at 11 am Saturday.
Salve then told the court that the postmortem of the deceased did not show any bullet wounds. The court, however, asked, “Is this a ground for not taking custody of the accused?”
Eight people, including four farmers, two BJP workers, a driver and a journalist, died in the clashes on 3 October, following violence after a convoy of three SUVs — including one allegedly owned by Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ — hit a group of protesting farmers, and sparked violence.
Salve also added, “The manner in which this car was driven, it leaves no manner of doubt that the allegations are true. It is possibly a 302 (Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes the punishment for murder).”
The court then shot back, “This is a responsible state government and police, when there is a serious allegation of death or gunshot injury… will the other accused in this country be treated the same way? Sending them notices, like asking them to please come tell us?”
It added, “See what is the message we are sending. In normal circumstances, if a 302 case is registered, what will the police do? Go and arrest the accused.”
The bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, was hearing a PIL registered on the basis of a letter sent by two lawyers, Shiv Kumar Tripathi and C.S. Panda. The matter first came up for hearing Thursday, when the court had asked for a status report from the state government.
Justice Kant Friday emphasised on the seriousness of the issue, saying, “It is a brutal murder of 8 people. The law must take its course against all the accused.”
The case will now be heard after the Dussehra vacations.
‘Must protect evidence’
CJI Ramana also noted that the SIT formed by the government has the DIG, superintendent of police, circle officers etc, and pointed out that they are all “local people”. It then asked the state to direct the Director General of Police to ensure that the evidence is protected.
It then passed the order saying it was “not satisfied” by the steps taken by the state government so far.
“We hope the state will take necessary steps and because of the sensitivity of the issue, we are not making any comments…They (the state) must act. The onus is on the state government to take all remedial steps,” it added.
The court also said that the state government lawyer has assured that it will be apprised of an alternative agency which can conduct the investigation in the case.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)