The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the Uttar Pradesh government counsel to ensure witnesses are protected in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case, and agreed to examine a plea filed by the family members of the farmers, mowed by a car belonging to Ashish Misra, challenging bail granted to him by the Allahabad High Court.
The bench said it will issue notice in the matter.
Misra is the son of Union Minister and BJP MP Ajay Kumar Misra.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the family members, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana that on March 10, a protected witness in the case had been attacked and the state government did not file an appeal challenging the bail granted to Misra in the case.
The Chief Justice told the Uttar Pradesh government counsel: “What is this? There is a specific mention that a witness is attacked. File a detailed counter affidavit.”
The Chief Justice emphasized that the UP government should ensure that witnesses in the case are protected.
At the outset, Dave criticized the high court order granting bail to Misra, despite sufficient material on record connecting him with the incident. The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, scheduled the matter for further hearing on March 24.
On March 15, the Supreme Court said a bench will be constituted, which heard the matter earlier and scheduled the matter for hearing on Wednesday.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing some farmers, submitted that there was an attack on one of the prime witnesses in the case. Bhushan claimed people who attacked the witness threatened by saying that now that the BJP has won, they will take care of him. He had submitted that other co-accused are also seeking bail relying on the high court order. In February, a single-judge bench of the high court granted bail to Mishra who had spent four months in custody.
The plea contended that the family members were forced to move the apex court since Uttar Pradesh has failed to file an appeal challenging bail granted to Misra.
The plea argued that the high court granted bail without considering the heinous nature of the crime and also in the backdrop of overwhelming evidence against the accused in the charge sheet. The plea further argued that there is likelihood of the accused tampering with the witnesses and causing obstruction in justice.
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.
Misra 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.