A Special Investigation Team (SIT) told a local court in Uttar Pradesh that the October 3 Lakhimpur Kheri incident was a pre-planned conspiracy and not an act of "negligence or callousness." The SIT has filed an application before the concerned judge seeking to modify the charges leveled against the main accused Ashish Mishra and 12 others to include attempt to murder as opposed to the earlier charge of rash driving.
The SIT's application sought to replace IPC sections 279 (rash driving), 338 (causing grievous hurt by rash and negligent act), 304A (causing death by negligence) with that of 307 (attempt to murder), 336 (rash/negligent act to endanger the personal safety of others), 34 (act done by many with a common intention) along with sections 3/25/30 of the Arms Act.
Now total charges sought are Sections 147, 148, 149, 307, 326, 302, 34, 102B, of the IPC along with Sections 3/25/30 of the Arms Act.
On October 3, violent clashes broke out in the state after a jeep ploughed down eight including four protesting farmers. A viral video alleged that the jeep was part of the convoy of the minister of state for home Ajay Mishra. The minister's son Ashish was arrested by the UP police as the main accused in this case.
SIT officer Vidyaram Diwakar in his application, filed in Hindi, said: "The incident was a deliberate act and not of negligence or callousness."
The Supreme Court-constituted probe team's observation comes more than two months after the incident resulted in violent clashes in the state. Last month in November, the top court had expressed its dissatisfaction at the composition of the SIT which comprised of sub-inspectors from the Lakhimpur Kheri area. The apex court bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had directed the UP government to "upgrade" the SIT to include three senior IPS officers. The bench had sought names of senior IPS officers "who are in UP cadre but do not belong to UP".
The bench had also appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a retired Punjab and Haryana High Court judge, to monitor the probe.
The top court which is monitoring the probe had pulled up the UP government on previous occasions for its "shoddy probe". The Supreme Court had rapped the Yogi Adityanath-led government for "dragging its feet". The three-judge bench had also observed that "the investigation is not going in the way" which it expected. The court had further pointed out that evidence, in this case, was being collected in a way to protect one of the accused.
"...prima facie it appears that one particular accused is seeking to be given benefit by overlapping two FIRs, you can appreciate very well the fate of the case," Justice Surya Kant, one of the three judges on the bench had observed.