“How long should Ashish Mishra remain in jail without bail?” Supreme Court asks

The Court asked the Additional Sessions Judge in Lakhimpur Kheri to file a report on how long the trial would take to complete.

December 12, 2022 03:21 pm | Updated 04:30 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court said Mishra has continued in custody “because of our order”. Filw

The Supreme Court said Mishra has continued in custody “because of our order”. Filw | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Supreme Court on Monday asked how long Ashish Mishra, a Union Minister’s son and accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and killings case, should be in custody without bail.

A Bench of Justices Surya Kant and Krishna Murari said a balance ought to be struck among factors which include holding a fair trial, providing protection to victims and witnesses and consideration for the rights of the accused.

On December 6, an Uttar Pradesh court framed charges of murder, rioting and criminal conspiracy against Mishra, the son of Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, in the case involving the mowing down of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri district in October last year.

The trial is expected to commence on December 16. Mishra has been in custody for a year.

The Court asked the Additional Sessions Judge in Lakhimpur Kheri to file a report on how long, tentatively, the trial would take to complete. It listed Mishra’s application for bail on January 11.

“Under the monitoring of this court, we have reached from the stage of investigation to the framing of charges. There are a total of 200 witnesses in the case who have to testify. So, now the question is at what point should bail be granted… In a case in which a trial needs reasonable time to complete, what stage should bail be given? How long should he be kept in custody? It should not be a pre-judging of his case,” Justice Kant asked during the hearing on Monday

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for the victims and families, said there was nothing “special” or “exceptional” in Mishra’s case.

Mr. Dave said the apex court normally did not intervene when both the trial and the High Courts had refused bail in murder cases.

Also Read: Lakhimpur Kheri violence | Charges framed against Ashish Mishra, 13 others

“This is no case where the accused’s right needs to be considered. Three witnesses have already been attacked… These are people who are extraordinarily powerful… He (Mishra) wanted to go and teach the protesting farmers a lesson,” Mr. Dave argued.

The Court said Mishra has continued in custody “because of our order”. In April, Justice Kant had authored a scathing judgment against Mishra while cancelling his bail granted by the Allahabad High Court.

“He is in custody because the law finds it deserving,” Mr. Dave reacted.

“If somebody can kill innocent people in a pre-planned manner and can get bail, it can create a dangerous scenario for the future,” Mr. Dave submitted.

He said that the accused had filed “manipulated” documents in the lower courts in an effort to distance Mishra from the deaths.

“In a case as heinous as this, bail should not be granted,” Mr. Dave said.

Uttar Pradesh government said the case involved a grievous offence. The Court said the State should continue to protect the witnesses till the completion of trial.

Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi, Ranjit Kumar and Siddharth Dave, for Mishra, argued that their client was not in the vehicle which caused the “mishap”.

They contended that Mishra was at a wrestling match four km away. Spectators there could vouch his presence. There was no proof of anyone dying from bullet wounds. The car, at the centre of the incident, may have been trying to escape from stone-pelting by agitators. This was no “pre-planned murder”. It was only a “fracas”, Mr. Rohatgi argued.

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