The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its dissatisfaction with the Uttar Pradesh government over its probe in the October 3 Lakhimpur Kheri violence incident where a jeep ploughed eight people including a journalist and four protesting farmers.
"The investigation is not going in the way we expected," the bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said. The court further pointed out that evidence in this case was being collected in a way to protect one of the accused.
In a bid to "infuse fairness and impartiality in the investigation" the top court mulled over the idea of appointing a retired judge from a different high court to "monitor" the investigation on a daily basis till the UP police files its chargesheet.
On October 3, violence 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.
Evidence collected to protect a particular accused: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court referred to the status report filed by the UP government, the bench noted that three FIRs have been filed in relation to this incident. The top court said that the probe in the three FIRs must be independent of each other.
"Now it is being said that there are two FIRs and the evidence collected in one FIR will be used in another," the bench pointed out. "The evidence in FIR 220 is being collected in a way to protect one accused," Justice Surya Kant one of the three judges on the bench added.
"...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 Kant added.
The three set of FIRs filed in this matter related to the murder of the farmers, the death of a journalist, and the deaths of political workers. In the set of political workers, the accused themselves have died. So now witnesses in this matter are deposing and giving statements favouring the accused in the case of the farmers death, Justice Kant said after perusing the status report.
"What it appears to us is that this SIT (Special Investigation Team) is unable to maintain an investigative distance between the three FIRs," Justice Kant observed.
The top court further expressed its dissatisfaction with the judicial commission appointed by the state. "To ensure that there is no mix up of evidence in the case we are inclined to appoint a former judge of a different high court to monitor this probe," the bench observed. The bench was mulling over appointing Justices Ranjit Singh or Rakesh Kumar Jain, retired judges from the Punjab and Haryana High Court to oversee the investigation till the chargesheet has been filed.
State dragging its feet: SC to UP
This is not the first time the Supreme Court has pulled up the UP government for its probe of this incident. On October 6, the Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the escalating violence in the state following the Lakhimpur Kheri incident.
On October 21, the Supreme Court had questioned the state on the status of the probe saying it couldn't be an "unending story". It had further directed the UP government the "dispel (the) impression" that it was "dragging its feet" in this matter.
At a previous hearing on October 8, the bench had rebuked the state police for failing to arrest Ashish Mishra, the prime accused in this case. "What message are we sending (by not arresting the accused)"? CJI Ramana had said.
"The law must take its course against all accused and the government has to take all remedial steps in this regard to inspire confidence in the investigation of the brutal murder of eight persons," the court had said.
Updated On: 2021-11-08T13:29:38+05:30