Supreme Court has expressed its disappointment over the handling of the Lakhimpur Kheri Violence probe for the third time and has suggested that a retired judge from the High Court of another state should monitor the probe on a day-to-day basis till the chargesheet is filed.
The top court bench has suggested the names of Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain (Retd) or Justice Ranjit Singh (Retd) from Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice Surya Kant was hearing the matter.
On October 3, eight people including four farmers, one journalist, two BJP workers, and one driver were killed. The four farmers were crushed by an SUV which allegedly belonged to Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra. Ten people, including Ashish Mishra, have been arrested so far in the case.
“What it appears to us is that this SIT (Special Investigation Team) somehow or the other is unable to maintain investigative distance between the cases. To ensure that evidence…are recorded independently and there is no overlapping and there is no intermixing of the evidences, we are trying to appoint a retired judge from a different High Court to monitor the investigation on day-to-day basis…We are not confident…We don’t want judicial commission appointed by your state to continue,” said Justice Surya Kant.
Poor Progress In Probe
“The investigation is not going the way we expected… We are here to see that a proper investigation takes place. There is a need to appoint a retired High Court judge to monitor it without bias,” said CJI Ramana.
He added, “There is nothing in the status report except saying that some more witnesses examined. We gave 10 days. The lab reports also have not come. It’s not going the way we expected.”
Two FIRs and Overlapping Statements
The bench also brought to notice the two FIRs in the case and stated that it appears that the two overlapping FIRs in the case were only aimed at protecting the accused, Ashish Mishra and that the investigations were not kept separate as they should be.
It was noted that the evidence of the eyewitnesses in connection to the death of the driver and BJP workers were overlapping with the evidence in connection to the death of the four farmers.
“We are sorry to say that prima facie it appears that one particular accused is being given benefits by overlapping two FIRs. One set of murder is of farmers, then there is journalist and there are political workers. There are statements of witnesses that have been recorded that seem to favour the main accused,” stated Justice Surya Kant.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve Replied
“This was happening because some of the witnesses who had come forward in the case related to the death of the driver and BJP workers were also giving statements about the case involving the death of the farmers. He added that when witnesses come forward saying they want their testimony to be recorded, police cannot say a no to them.”
He further added that the mix-up may have happened because though it was initially suspected that the journalist had died in the violence following the clash, it had later come to light that he was crushed by the vehicles. Therefore, the investigation had moved to the FIR registered in connection with the death of the farmers, Salve said.
Why Only One Mobile Seized?
“You identified only one accused’s phone. What about the others? Only Ashish Mishra. Are you saying none of the other accused had their phones on them?” questioned Justice Hima Kohli about why SIT had seized only one mobile from 13 accused in the case.