In a move that could make things more difficult for Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra, the principal accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri riots, the ex-judge overseeing the investigation has advised that the Uttar Pradesh government approach the Supreme Court to have his bail revoked.
The Supreme Court has set a deadline of April 4 for the Uttar Pradesh government to respond to a report presented by retired High Court judge Rakesh Kumar Jain. A Supreme Court bench chaired by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is hearing a petition filed by victims’ relatives challenging Ashish Mishra’s bail, which was granted by the Allahabad High Court on February 10. Last year, the accused allegedly ran down protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh.
The case is being heard by a bench consisting of Chief Justice NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Hima Kohli.
The Allahabad High Court granted bail to the main culprit Ashish Mishra on February 10, but the victims’ relatives appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
On March 16, the court issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and Ashish Mishra, asking for their reasons for not cancelling his bail. The court was also concerned about the possibility of a witness being assaulted.
The UP government has not filed an appeal in the 49 days since Ashish Mishra was granted bail. The Supreme Court has now given it five days to make a decision on the case.
The Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on November 17, 2021, led by retired Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Rakesh Kumar Jain, to oversee the investigation into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, which claimed the lives of eight people, including four farmers, on October 3, last year. Three officers from the Indian Police Service (IPS) were also added to the team.
The UP government denied allegations made by the victims’ families that it let Ashish Mishra off easy and failed to protect a witness in an affidavit filed yesterday.
The state government has stated that it “vehemently opposed” Ashish Mishra’s bail plea in the Allahabad High Court, and that the possibility of launching an appeal against the bail grant is still being considered by competent authorities. It further stated that all witnesses are being adequately protected, and that the petitioner’s attack was related to a personal dispute and had nothing to do with the case.
On behalf of the petitioners, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court that a key witness was severely attacked after Ashish Mishra was granted bail, and that the attackers threatened to “take care” of him now that the BJP had won the UP elections.