Lakhimpur Kheri violence case | Supreme Court sets aside Allahabad HC order granting bail to Ashish Mishra

A three-judge Bench asked the Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra to surrender within a week

April 18, 2022 11:18 am | Updated 02:11 pm IST - New Delhi

Ashish Mishra, accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case. File

Ashish Mishra, accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Monday cancelled the bail granted by Allahabad High Court to Ashish Mishra, Lakhimpur Kheri case prime accused and a Union Minister's son, in a "tearing hurry" and without giving the victims of the crime an opportunity to be heard.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli directed him to surrender within a week.

The order, read out in court by Justice Kant for the Bench, said the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction, denied victims a chance to participate in the bail proceedings and was in a "tearing hurry" to grant bail. He said the court, taking all these factors under consideration, could "rightfully cancel the bail".

But the court did not deny Mr. Mishra his right to seek bail and the High Court could consider his plea fairly, impartially and in an impassionate manner.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for the victims, urged the Bench to request the Allahabad High Court Chief Justice to list the bail, if sought, before "another judge" of the High Court.

"Let us leave it here," the Chief Justice told Mr. Dave, after conferring with the Bench.

Justice Kant observed orally that "we are quite sure the judge would not want to hear it now".

Reading out the order, Justice Kant observed that the victims had a right to be heard at every stage.

"Victims have unbridled participatory rights from the stage of investigation to culmination of proceedings... Victims have been clearly denied an opportunity to be heard at the time of grant of bail to the accused," Justice Kant observed.

The Bench said the High Court went into "several irrelevant considerations" and treated the FIR as an "encyclopaedia of the events", and thus, the bail order could not be sustained.

The court's decision was based on pleas by the bereaved families of farmers who were killed when a vehicle allegedly ran over them. The farmers were protesting the controversial agricultural laws at the time of the incident.

One of the key questions which the Supreme Court posed during the hearings was why the State of Uttar Pradesh did not appeal the bail in the Supreme Court.

In fact, it had come out during the hearings that the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the retired High Court judge monitoring the probe had recommended to the State to file an appeal against the bail order of the High Court under the apprehension that Mr. Mishra was influential and could tamper the evidence or "influence witnesses" while out.

"The question is why did you (Uttar Pradesh) not challenge the bail? You knew the circumstances under which we formed the SIT and requested a retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to monitor the investigation... You yourself admitted the offence is very serious. You say you vehemently opposed the bail application of the accused in the High Court... So we expected you to have acted on the suggestion of the SIT and the monitoring judge to appeal against the bail... You did not..." Chief Justice Ramana had addressed the State, represented by senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani.

Mr. Jethmalani had agreed that the offence alleged, the crushing to death of farmers and a journalist, was indeed "grave". But he argued that the State had already addressed this apprehension by providing witnesses with "extensive security". He said there had been no "untoward incidents".

But Mr. Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan, for the families, had countered the claim by referring to an incident in early March when a key witness was brutally attacked and threatened about his fate with the return to power of the BJP in the State post the Assembly election win.

Justice Kant had queried whether the victims were ever heard by the High Court before bail was granted.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, for Mr. Mishra, said no court would grant his client bail if the Supreme Court revoked it.

"I will be in jail for all time to come... You could remand the case back to the High Court," Mr. Kumar had argued. He said the accused was willing to abide by any bail conditions.

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