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Lakhimpur Kheri violence: SC pulls up UP; says action taken not satisfactory

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said: “We are not satisfied with the action taken by the state”.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for not arresting the accused against whom FIR has been lodged in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case in which eight persons were killed, saying it was not satisfied with the steps taken by the state government and expected a responsible government, system and police.

The apex court said “it is a very serious charge.”

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said: “We are not satisfied with the action taken by the state”.

“What is the message that you are sending? Even in normal circumstances… will the police not go immediately and arrest the accused. Things have not proceeded the way they should have. It appears to be only words and not actions,” Chief Justice N V Ramana said.

On the non-arrest of Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra, the bench queried senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the UP government: “Is this the way you treat the accused in other cases as well?…Sending notice”.

“When there is a serious allegations of murder and gunshot injury, how the accused in other parts of the country are treated. Please tell us,” the bench asked Salve.

It asked the state whether accused in other cases lodged under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code are treated the same way. “If you see the FIR, section 302 is there. Is it the same way you treat other accused,” the bench asked.

Observing that handing over the case to the CBI was not the solution, the bench told Salve to look for a better mode.

On Salve’s submission that the case is extremely serious, the bench replied: “If it is an extremely serious case that’s not how things are taking place. It is only in words and not in action”.

The apex court also told Salve to communicate to the top most police official that evidence and other relevant materials in the case are not destroyed.

Taking a strong objection to SIT formed in the matter, which comprises local officers, the bench said it may not be required to keep the SIT anymore, and emphasized that they should not destroy evidence or do anything negative. Salve submitted that given the evidence in hand, allegations under Section 302, may be possibly true.

Salve admitted before the top court: “I agree that enough has not been done.”

He said what has been done by the state is not satisfactory and remedial action will be taken soon, and urged the bench to put the matter for hearing immediately after the Dussehra vacation.

The top court told Salve that it will take up the matter after Dussehra vacation, ‘but that does not mean the state holds its hands’, and insisted that the state must take immediate steps.

The top court has posted the matter for hearing on October 20.

The state government submitted a status report underlining that it “is taking all steps to ensure a free and fair investigation and that two people have been arrested in the case.

On Thursday, the top court had directed the Uttar Pradesh government to submit a status report indicating who are the accused named in the FIR filed in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case and whether they have been arrested or not.

On October 3, nine persons, including four farmers, were killed in the violence that had erupted during a farmers’ protest in Lakhimpur Kheri when a group agitating against the Centre’s three new farm laws was holding a demonstration against the visit of UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.

Two BJP workers and a driver were beaten to death allegedly by the angry protesters, while a local journalist was also killed in the violence.

An FIR under section 302 of the IPC has been registered against the Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra and others in the incident in Tikonia police station but no arrest has been made so far.

Farmer leaders have claimed that Ashish was in one of the cars that allegedly knocked down the protesters but the minister has denied the allegations.