Lakhimpur Kheri violence case: SC says day-to-day trial may not be possible
The bench said the matter is scheduled to be taken up by the trial court on May 5
The Supreme Court on Monday said it may not be possible to direct the trial court to conduct day-to-day hearing in the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence case, in which Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra's son Ashish is among those facing prosecution, as it may affect other cases pending there.
A bench of Justices Surya Kant and J K Maheshwari, which perused a letter sent to the apex court by the trial court, observed it appeared that the trial court is dealing with the case sincerely.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the families of farmers killed in the violence, requested the bench to ask the trial court to have day-to-day hearing in the matter, and said out of around 200 prosecution witnesses, only three have been examined so far.
"Day-to-day trial may not be possible... other cases are also pending there. It may affect the pending cases," the bench observed.
Bhushan said this is a common experience that cases may go on for 20 years during trial.
"That is the precise reason that we have kept this matter pending here," the bench said.
Bhushan said the trial court may be asked to examine two prosecution witnesses in a week.
The bench said the matter is scheduled to be taken up by the trial court on May 5.
The apex court, which posted the matter for further hearing on July 11, said the interim direction given earlier by it shall continue to operate.
While hearing the matter on March 14, the apex court had said the trial in the case was not "slow paced" and directed the sessions judge concerned to keep apprising it about the future developments of the trial.
The top court had observed though it is not monitoring the trial, it is having an "indirect supervision" on it.
It had said the interim direction contained in its January 25 order, by which it had granted eight-week interim bail to Ashish Mishra in the case, shall continue to operate.
The court had also directed Ashish Mishra to leave Uttar Pradesh within one week of his release from jail.
On October 3, 2021, eight people were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri district's Tikunia after violence erupted when farmers were protesting against the then Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit to the area.
According to the Uttar Pradesh Police FIR, four farmers were mowed down by an SUV in which Ashish Mishra was seated. Following the incident, the driver of the SUV and two BJP workers were allegedly lynched by angry farmers. A journalist also died in the violence.
In its January 25 order, the top court had exercised its "suo-moto constitutional powers" and directed that four accused -- Guruwinder Singh, Kamaljeet Singh, Gurupreet Singh and Vichitra Singh -- who were arrested in connection with a separate FIR lodged over the killing of three occupants of the SUV, which allegedly mowed down farmers there, be released on interim bail till further orders.
While granting eight-week interim bail to Ashish Mishra, the bench had said any attempt made by him, his family or supporters to influence or threaten the witnesses, directly or indirectly, shall entail cancellation of interim bail.
It had said Ashish Mishra shall surrender his passport to the trial court within one week of his release on interim bail and not enter Uttar Pradesh except to attend the trial proceedings.
The apex court had also said he shall disclose the place of his residence to the trial court as well as the jurisdictional police station where he would stay during the period of interim bail.
"The trial court shall send progress reports to this court after every date of hearing, along with details of witnesses examined on each date,” the top court had said.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on July 26 last year rejected Ashish Mishra's bail plea. He had challenged the high court's order in the apex court.
On December 6 last year, the trial court framed charges against Ashish Mishra and 12 others for the alleged offences of murder, criminal conspiracy and other penal laws in the case of death of the four protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, paving the way for the start of the trial.