The Supreme Court on Monday reserved the order on a petition seeking cancellation of bail granted to Ashish Mishra, prime accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case which claimed eight lives.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Suya Kant and Hima Kohli made strong observations against the February 10 Allahabad High Court granting bail to Mishra. “We don’t approve of such irrelevant things…don’t want to use word nonsense,” said the bench. It further added, “This is not good…what we feel this way going into the merits, injuries (caused by bullet) is not necessary.”
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, submitted that the alleged offence is very serious and the state government has provided adequate security to all the 98 witnesses in the case, and the police are also in regular touch with them.
The bench noted that the top court appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the Lakhimpur Kheri violence probe, and had recommended cancellation of bail granted to Mishra.
The Chief Justice told Jethmalani, “Not filing SLP (special leave petition), protection provided to witnesses, these all are not issues…state should have acted on suggestions made by the SIT. We are not forcing you to file an SLP.”
The Chief Justice further categorically asked Jethmalani, “What is your stand?” Jethmalani replied that Mishra is not a flight risk and to say the offence was intentional or not, is a matter of trial, and reiterated that offence is serious.
During the hearing, the bench observed why did the high court judge go into merits of the case in a bail matter. The bench noted, “Forget about merits, how can the judge go into all this post mortem and all?”
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the family members of the victims’, submitted that the high court failed to consider relevant facts, and the order suffered from gross non-application of mind by the high court. After hearing detailed arguments in the matter, the top court reserved the order.
Jethmalani said the state government opposed the bail granted to Mishra in the case.
Mishra was arrested on October 9 last year in the case. On October 3, 2021, eight people, including four farmers, were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri in clashes during a farmers’ protest. He was granted bail on February 10.
The family members of the farmers, mowed down by a car belonging to Mishra, in Lakhimpur Kheri had moved the top court challenging bail granted to him. He is the son of Union Minister and BJP MP Ajay Kumar Mishra. The victims’ families have claimed that the state has not filed an appeal opposing bail granted to Mishra.
In November last year, the Supreme Court appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the Lakhimpur Kheri violence probe. The top court also reconstituted the SIT investigating the incident and appointed IPS officer S.B. Shiradkar, as its head.