SC proposes appointment of retired judge in Lakhimpur case probe
The Supreme Court of India has once again questioned the handling of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case where eight people had died. Chief Justice of India NV Ramana proposed to appoint a retired High Court judge to oversee the probe until the chargesheet is filed. Violence had erupted in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri, killing eight people including four protesting farmers.
'Not going the way we expected'
"It is not going the way we expected," CJI Ramana said. The court also expressed dissatisfaction over the mixing of witnesses in different FIRs in the case. It added that two overlapping FIRs were apparently filed to protect the accused, Ashish Mishra. "We are sorry to say that prima facie it appears that one particular accused is being given benefits by overlapping two FIRs."
Court suggests names of judges
Justice Hima Kohli, part of the three-judge SC bench, suggested the names of Justice (retired) Ranjit Singh from Punjab and Haryana High Court and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain. "Let a former judge monitor everything till the chargesheets are prepared and filed."
UP government to consider suggestion
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the UP government, said they will consider the suggestion. "Government can appoint," he told the court. He explained that mixing of witnesses happened because some witnesses who had come forward regarding the death of a driver and political workers were also giving statements about the case involving the death of the farmers.
Court asks how many phones were identified
The judges also asked how many mobile phones had been identified at the scene of the incident. "You identified only one accused's phone. What about the others? Only Ashish Mishra," Justice Kohli said. "Are you saying none of the other accused had their phones on them?" Salve replied, "There is clinching proof that these accused were at incident site. Through CCTV footage."
What had happened in Lakhimpur Kheri?
On October 3, violence had broken out in Lakhimpur Kheri. A convoy of cars mowed down protesting farmers, killing four of them. In the ensuing unrest, four more people, including members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a local reporter, were thrashed to death. Farmers allege that Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra was involved though they have denied that charge.
Minister's son is among 10 arrested so far
Ashish was arrested days after a case of murder was filed against him. At least nine others have also been arrested in connection with the violence, including a local BJP leader who was seen at the scene of crime. During the last SC hearing on the issue, the bench had questioned why there were only 23 eyewitnesses in the case.