Lakhimpur witness ‘attacked’: plea

Ashish Mishra (centre) and other accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case being produced in a court in Lakhimpur. File

Ashish Mishra (centre) and other accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case being produced in a court in Lakhimpur. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Families of farmers killed in Lakhimpur Kheri, who have challenged the bail granted to an accused, the son of a Union Minister, pleaded with the Supreme Court on March 11 to hear them urgently, saying a prime witness was ‘attacked last night’.

In an oral mentioning before Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, the families’ lawyer, advocate Prashant Bhushan, said the case was supposed to be listed on March 11, but was not.

The CJI assured Mr. Bhushan that the case would come up for hearing on March 15. It was a mistake on the part of the court’s office that the case was not listed on March 11.

Earlier, on March 4, Mr. Bhushan had mentioned and sought an early hearing of the families’ appeal against the bail granted by the Allahabad High Court to prime accused Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni.

“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 had submitted on March 4.

He said that other accused in the case, encouraged by Mr. Ashish Mishra’s bail, would also push for bail.

The families said they had appealed the February 10 bail order as the State of Uttar Pradesh did not budge.

‘Arbitrary’ exercise of discretionary powers

The petitioners had 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 has reminded the Supreme Court that the court had taken suo motu cognisance of the incident which involved 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, had ordered the formation of an independent Special Investigation Team to conduct the probe 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 families have 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 has 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 petitioners have 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”.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 6:50:45 pm |