The Supreme Court has agreed to hear on March 11 the challenge raised by the families of farmers who were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri against bail granted by the Allahabad High Court to prime accused Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni.
In an oral mentioning of the petition before Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, advocate Prashant Bhushan sought urgent listing of the case.
“The prime accused has been granted bail for totally extraneous reasons. None of the considerations settled by the Supreme Court in law, like whether the accused can influence witnesses or tamper with evidence while out on bail, were ignored by the High Court,” Mr. Bhushan submitted.
He said that other accused in the case, encouraged by Mr. Ashish Mishra’s bail, were also seeking bail.
“We can hear the case on March 11,” the CJI said.
The families said they had appealed the February 10 bail order as the State of Uttar Pradesh did not budge.
The petitioners alleged the bail was an “arbitrary” exercise of discretionary powers by the High Court and their lawyer was unable to present their side of the case.
The petition said top court had taken suo motu cognisance of the shocking case of farmers, protesting the controversial farm laws, being run over in broad daylight. The petition said the top court, on November 17 last year, ordered the formation of an independent SIT to conduct the investigation and filing of status report before it after the chargesheet was filed.
The grant of bail to the Minister’s son would derail the prosecution of the case, they argued. The chargesheet was filed already on January 3.
“The family members of the murdered farmers are seeking special leave to appeal under Article 136 of the Constitution of India against the order as the State of Uttar Pradesh, where the political party of the accused and his father is in power, has failed to file an appeal against the impugned order,” the petitioners said.
The families argued that Mr. Ashish Mishra was released on bail despite the heinous nature of the crime, the character of the overwhelming evidence against the accused in the chargesheet, the position and status of the accused with reference to the victim and witnesses, the likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice and repeating the offence and the possibility of his tampering with the witnesses and obstructing the course of justice.
The petitioners said the bail order was perverse in law. The accused had not brought on record the fact that the chargesheet had been filed even before the final hearing on the question of bail on January 18.
“The High Court neither considered nor dealt with the overwhelming evidence against the accused in chargesheet,” the petitioners contended.
“The victims were prevented from bringing the relevant material as regards the settled principles for grant of bail to the notice of High Court as their counsel ‘got’ disconnected from the hearing on January 18 before he could barely make any submissions and repeated calls to the court staff to get reconnected were to no avail,” the petitioners said.
The petitioners further pointed out that non-consideration in the order of the power and influence wielded by the accused and his supporters in the area where the victims, family members, witnesses, and their advocates reside and who have consistently been under pressure was perverse and there was “an immediate threat of the streams of justice being sullied.”