The Uttar Pradesh government has told the Supreme Court that a decision on filing an appeal challenging bail granted to Ashish Mishra in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case “is pending consideration before the relevant authorities”.
Refuting the allegations that it did not oppose bail granted to Mishra by the Allahabad High Court in February this year, the Uttar Pradesh government in a counter affidavit said that Mishra’s bail application was vehemently opposed by it and any averments to the contrary in the special leave petition (SLP), filed by the family members of victims, are completely false and merit to be rejected. “Furthermore, the Impugned Order being of 10.02.2022, the limitation period against the same is still running, and the decision to file SLP against the same, is pending consideration before the relevant authorities,” said the affidavit.
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 Ashish Mishra. The top court is scheduled to hear the matter on Wednesday.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the family members of the victims, had told the Apex Court that one of the witnesses in the matter was attacked and the attackers threatened him saying that Mishra is out on bail and the ruling party has also won the elections and that they will see to it.
Responding to this allegation, the Uttar Pradesh government said that during the course of investigation a gunner, assigned to protect the witness as per apex court order, and three independent eyewitnesses to the incident were examined. All the four persons stated that the incident occurred suddenly due to an altercation between the witness and the attacker party over throwing of ‘gulal’ on him, added the affidavit.
On March 16, the top court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to file a detailed affidavit in connection with an attack on one of the witnesses in the matter.
Detailing on the incident, the state government said on March 10 at around 8.15 p.m., the witness came towards the primary school near Danga, on a tractor trolley laden with sugarcane and his police gunner was with him at that time.
The government said the witness objected when some people threw ‘gulal’ at him, which led to an altercation between him and the others, in which one of the miscreants hit him with a belt and others kicked and punched him.
The affidavit added that all the witnesses claimed that none of the miscreants mentioned Mishra or the ruling party winning the elections, and that the incident was a result of a sudden altercation due to the dispute over Holi gulal, and had no relation to the incident of October 3, 2021.
The state government contended that the attempt by the petitioners in the SLP and application for additional documents to conflate and connect the two incidents is completely unwarranted. The government added that the accused in the attack on the witness were arrested on March 11, and they were granted bail on March 14.
The affidavit said as per the top court orders, the families of all the victims and all the witnesses whose Section 164 statements were recorded, have been receiving continuous security under the Witness Protection Scheme 2018.
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.
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.