Lakhimpur Kheri violence | Supreme Court dissatisfied with U.P. government’s status report

‘Your seriousness is only in words and not in your actions,’ says CJI

Updated - October 08, 2021 11:03 pm IST

Published - October 08, 2021 02:01 pm IST - New Delhi

NEW DELHI, 24/11/2019: A view of Supreme Court of Inida, in New Delhi on November 25,2019. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

NEW DELHI, 24/11/2019: A view of Supreme Court of Inida, in New Delhi on November 25,2019. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on Friday said the Uttar Pradesh Government’s resolve to fairly investigate the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and deaths , including allegations of murder against a Union Minister’s son, seemed just all talk and no action.

“Your seriousness is only in words and not in your actions,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana addressed the government.

Justice Hima Kohli told the State, “There is an old adage which rings true in this situation - the proof of the pudding is in the eating...”

The State is represented by senior advocate Harish Salve and State Additional Advocate General Garima Parshad.

‘A case of brutal murder’

Justice Surya Kant, on the Bench, told the State, “It is a case of brutal murder of eight persons, law must take its course against all the accused.”

The court stated that it was dissatisfied with the government’s status report on the investigation.

Chief Justice Ramana pointed out how even a special investigation team formed by the State was made of “local” police officers, inspectors, police superintendents and a DIG.

The court asked whether the State has yet made a request to the CBI to take over the case.

Mr. Salve replied in the negative.

After a pause, the court itself went on to express doubts about transferring the case to the CBI. “The CBI is not a solution for reason of the persons involved...”, Chief Justice Ramana told Mr. Salve. The “persons involved” may have been a reference to the case’s link to a Central Minister.

Mr. Salve began his submissions, saying a “young man”, ostensibly Ashish Mishra , son of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra, was being “targetted”.

Mr. Ashish is accused of shooting dead a farmer while trying to escape agitated farmers after vehicles in the Minister’s convoy rammed into them.

“The charges are serious,” Chief Justice Ramana addressed Mr. Salve. The latter said a notice had been issued to Mr. Ashish, asking him to appear before the police by 11 a.m. “tomorrow”. “If the person does not come, the rigour of law will take its course,” he assured.

The CJI asked sharply,“Is it the same way you treat other accused too? Like sending notices, etc”.

‘No bullet injuries’

Mr. Salve said he was instructed by the State that the postmortem report on the victim did not show bullet injuries. “That is why notice was issued. If the allegations are true, it is certainly a Section 302 IPC [murder] case,” he stated.

After conferring for a moment, the CJI addressed Mr. Salve, “This is the opinion of the Bench... As a responsible State government with a system and police, when there is a serious allegation of death or gunshot injury, will any other accused in this country be treated the same way?”

Mr. Salve remarked that the investigators had found two cartridges and “may be he had bad aim”.

Chief Justice Ramana told Mr. Salve, “It is an extremely serious issue, you are not proceeding in the way you should be... Imagine, what is the message we are sending out? In normal circumstances, a case of Section 302 IPC will be registered. The police will go out and arrest that person”.

The senior lawyer urged the court to give some more time to the State to repair the shortfalls in the investigation. He said everything would fall in place in a day or two. He would talk to the Home Secretary and the DGP.

“They [State] should have done the needful... They have to make another pudding and make it palatable,” Mr. Salve agreed with the court.

He said the court could list the case immediately on reopening after the Dussehra holidays. The Bench posted the case for October 20 as the first item on the list.

“We have respect for you, Mr. Salve. We hope the State will take the necessary steps,” the CJI observed.

TV channel’s claim

The hearing witnessed a lawyer inform the Bench about a tweet by a TV channel that the CJI visited the Lakhimpur Kheri violence victims on Thursday.

The CJI, however, brushed the tweet aside, saying in “public life one has to handle brickbats and bouquets with equanimity”.

He said, “I was sitting in court and hearing cases.”

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