Lakhimpur Kheri case: SC asks UP to identify more eye-witnesses
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to identify more witnesses of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case and provide them protection. The apex court expressed surprise over the fact that only 23 eye-witnesses had been traced by the police, despite hundreds being present at the crime scene. The matter has been slated for further hearing on November 8.
Why does this story matter?
On October 3, Union Minister Ajay Mishra's convoy mowed down a farmers' protest rally in Lakhimpur Kheri, triggering violence. Eight people were killed, including four farmers. Amid differences between protesting farmers and the government over agricultural laws, the incident was seen as a deliberate attempt to crush dissent. The Supreme Court has also repeatedly pulled up the UP government over a lax probe.
SC reviewed UP's second status report
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices Surya Kant, and Hima Kohli looked into the second status report filed by UP government on Tuesday. The report said that the statements of 30 among 68 witnesses have been recorded under Section 164. Twenty-three among them were eye-witnesses. The bench orally told UP to identify more eye-witnesses.
'Thousands were present at crime scene'
According to LiveLaw, Justice Kant noted, "Your case is also that there were thousands of people. And they were all local people. And post incident, most of them have been agitating demanding proper investigation. So identification of people by witnesses should not be a problem."
Court issues directions to UP
The court directed the UP government to ensure all statements of relevant witnesses are recorded before a Judicial Magistrate or the concerned District Judge upon the former's unavailability under CrPC Section 164. The bench also asked the state to provide security and protection to witnesses, with CJI Ramana suggesting CCTV and home guards. UP has also been directed to expedite the forensic examination.
File separate replies for counter-violence: Court
Further, the court asked the state to file different replies for cases pertaining to the counter-violence that led to three lynchings, and also the killing of a journalist. Asked if any injured witnesses were present, the UP government initially said all those injured had died, but later said there were three to four injured witnesses. Senior Advocate Harish Salve represented the UP government.
Last week, SC said police was 'dragging feet'
Last week, the SC had pulled up the UP Police saying that it was "dragging its feet" with the probe. At the time, the police had only recorded statements of four of the 44 identified witnesses. At the hearing, the court had also inquired why six of the 10 accused were sent to judicial custody instead of police custody.
What happened in Lakhimpur Kheri?
On October 3, farmers were protesting central agricultural laws ahead of an event in Union Minister Ajay Mishra's paternal village Tikunia in Lakhimpur Kheri. Mishra's convoy violently rammed into the protest rally. The farmers alleged Mishra's son Ashish was driving one of the vehicles. Four farmers, two BJP workers, a driver, and a journalist were killed in the incident and the ensuing violence.