During the hearing, the court also pulled up the state police, asking why mobile phones of all accused in the incident have not been seized so far, except that of prime accused Mishra.
Slamming the Uttar Pradesh police over its probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which eight people, including four farmers and a local journalist, were killed, the Supreme Court on Monday proposed to appoint a former judge from the Punjab and Haryana High Court to monitor the ongoing investigation to “infuse independence, fairness and impartiality to it.”
Expressing its disappointment over a status report filed by the Uttar Pradesh government on the October 3 violence that erupted in Lakhimpur Kheri, a Bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana said that there was nothing in the status report other than the government stating that more witnesses had been examined in the case. “This is not going the way we expected,” it said.
The apex court said it appeared that the evidence was being collected in the lynching case to protect one particular accused, alluding to the son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra.
“To ensure 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 the probe in the case,” the court said and suggested the names of Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain (retired) or Justice Ranjit Singh (retired) from Punjab and Haryana HC oversee the ongoing investigation,” the Bench also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said while posting the matter for further hearing on Friday.
“We are not confident that your state judicial commission can oversee this,” the bench said. The UP government had appointed retired Allahabad HC judge, Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava to head the judicial commission after the incident.
During the hearing, the court also pulled up the state police, asking why mobile phones of all accused in the incident have not been seized so far, except that of prime accused Mishra. “Did other accused not use cell phones,” the bench asked, saying the pace of probe was not up to expectation.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, sought time to take instructions on the court’s suggestion on the appointment of a judge. The state government, also informed the SC that the local journalist, Raman Kashyap, was not killed by the farmers, but died after he was crushed by the offending vehicle involved in the incident. “There are political overtones to everything that is happening,” Salve said.
Eight people, including four farmers and a journalist, were killed on October 3 during a farmers’ protest in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district. An SUV, allegedly belonging to the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, ran over them. 13 people, including prime suspect Ashish Mishra, have so far been arrested in the case.
Ashish was arrested after the apex court pulled up the UP government over the delay in arresting the accused. The top court had acted on a letter petition sent by advocates Shiv Kumar Tripathi and C S Panda who sought a CBI probe into the matter.