The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for “dragging its feet” in the investigation of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which eight, including four farmers, were killed on 3 October.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli observed during the hearing, “We think you are dragging your feet. Please dispel that impression.”
As senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the UP government, submitted that a report on the incident has been filed in a sealed cover, the Bench replied, “No, that was not required and we have just received it now…we waited till 1 am last night for any filing. But we received nothing”.
Justice Kant added that the court never said anything about the sealed cover.
Salve informed the bench that four out of 44 witnesses in the matter have recorded their statements under section 164 (before a judicial magistrate), and 10 accused have been arrested so far.
The Bench asked Salve, “Why haven’t other witnesses recorded their statements?” to which Salve submitted that the statements of other witnesses were being recorded, but the courts were shut.
The bench queried further, “Criminal courts closed for Dussehra vacation?”
Salve told the court that two crimes are being investigated : first pertaining to the mowing down of farmers and the other was in connection with the lynching, adding that said there are two crimes: one where the car was driven into farmers and the other one was in connection with the lynching.
He added that four of the 10 accused are in police custody to which the Bench queried about the other six accused, adding, “You did not seek custody so they were sent to judicial custody. What is the situation in this case?”
The CJI observed, “This should not be an unending story, this is all we want”.
The Bench was also miffed with the media’s coverage of the incident, with Justice Kant saying, “We are sorry to see how media is exceeding freedom of speech and expression. CJI is gracious enough to let this go else proceedings could take place.”
Salve sought time in the matter. After hearing arguments, the bench posted the matter for further hearing on 26 October.
The top court had registered a petition on the basis of a letter by two lawyers seeking a probe by the CBI in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.