The Uttar Pradesh government is “dragging its feet” in the probe into the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.
“We think you are dragging your feet. Please dispel that impression,” the Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli observed during the hearing.
While replying to UP government’s lawyer Harish Salve who informed the court that he had submitted a report on the incident in a sealed cover, CJI Ramana said: “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.”
The Supreme Court also pointed out that there were 44 witnesses in the case, but the statements of only four had been recorded so far, reported Bar and Bench.
The bench asked Salve, why the statements of other witnesses were not recorded.
Salve replied that it was probably because the courts were closed due to Dussehra vacations. But the bench pointed out that the criminal courts will not be closed during vacations, Live Law reported.
The top court pointed out that the Special Investigation Team will have to identify the vulnerable witnesses and afford them protection and get their statements recorded under Section 164 CrPC, as it will have more evidentiary value.
“Your SIT can recognise who are the most vulnerable witnesses and can be browbeaten.. then why only four witness statements have been recorded?” Justice Surya Kant asked.
At the end, the bench adjourned the further hearing to October 26.
During the last hearing on 8 October, the bench led by the Chief Justice of India had recorded its dissatisfaction over the investigation done by the Uttar Pradesh Police in the case.
Eight people were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3 after a vehicle which was part of Union minister Ajay Mishra’s convoy ran over protestors who were holding demonstrations against the Centre’s farm laws.
Four of them were farmers and one was a journalist.
A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Hima Kohli and Surya Kant had taken up the matter on October 7 after two lawyers sought the Supreme Court’s intervention in the case.
Union minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra has been arrested on multiple charges, including murder and criminal conspiracy, in connection with the violence.