“Will other accused be treated the same way?” Supreme Court to UP govt in Lakhimpur case

Photo: PTI

The Supreme Court Friday said it is “not satisfied with the steps taken” by the Uttar Pradesh’s Yogi Adityanath government in the probe into the death of eight persons including four farmers and a journalist in Lakhimpur Kheri after a jeep in the convoy of Union Minister Ajay Kumar Mishra rammed into protesting farmers.

“We are not satisfied with the action so far,” the court said.

The top court sought to know why the accused in the case have not been arrested so far.

“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 NV Ramana said in a sharp rebuke.

Even lawyer Harish Salve, representing the UP government, admitted, “I agree that enough has not been done.”

“This is the opinion of the bench. We expect there is a responsible government, police officers, and system. When there is a serious allegation of gunshot injury, will other accused in this country be treated the same way, by sending invitations?” said Ramana, who is heading the three-judge bench hearing the case.

CJI’s observation came after Salve informed the court that the minister’s son Ashish Mishra has been summoned for questioning.

Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son, Ashish, is an accused in the murder case. Farmers have said in an FIR that he drove into a gathering of demonstrators amid a peaceful black flag protest on Sunday – eight were killed, including four farmers and a local journalist. Ashish has yet to be arrested and earlier today skipped a police summons for questioning. He has been summoned twice amid allegations he is being shielded. 

Salve said, “One thing is very clear…further developments (show), young man against whom the allegations are targeted appears to be a serious problem. We have given him notice. He asked for time. We have asked him to come at 11 am tomorrow. if he does not come, rigour of law will kick in.”

“Treat the accused the same way we treat other persons in other cases,” the Chief Justice said today.

He went on to say: “Mr. Salve we have respect for you. We hope the state will take necessary steps. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, we are not making comments. CBI is not a solution, for reasons known to you… because of the persons… better some other person looks into (this), We will take up the issue after courts reopen (post Dussehra). The authorities must act.”

Responding to Salve’s comments that the post-mortem did not reveal any gunshot injuries, the CJI remarked, “Is that a ground for the accused…I don’t want to say anything more.”

“It’s serious. The way it has to be proceeded, you are not proceeding. It appears only in words and not in action”, the CJI said.

“What is the message we are sending?” Justice Surya Kant said. “It is a case of murder of eight persons and there may be more than one accused and all of them had to be arrested,” Kant added.