Lakhimpur Kheri violence: SC seeks UP govt reply in lynching FIR, directs protection of witnesses
New Delhi, October 26, 2021
The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a separate report from the Uttar Pradesh Police on investigation in the second FIR in Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which four persons, including a journalist, were killed. The top court also ordered protection of witnesses in the case.
The widow of an accused-deceased told the top court that her husband's killers were roaming free, and no action has been taken against them.
Senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj, representing Ruby Devi, widow of Shyam Sundar, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice N. V. Ramana that there are three accused who are allegedly responsible for her husband's death and the police have not taken any action against them.
Bhardwaj said "killers are roaming free" and threatening his client'.
Another advocate representing the journalist, who was killed in the incident, also urged the court to direct the police to apprehend the accused involved.
The bench directed separate replies must be filed by Uttar Pradesh with respect to the counter-case of lynching of a person named Shyam Sundar, who was allegedly attacked after the car ploughed into farmers' protest, and also the killing of journalist Raman Kashyap.
In Sundar's matter, senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, submitted he was an accused who was also killed in the incident and the police are also probing it along with the death of the journalist, who was in the car.
The Chief Justice told Salve to file a separate reply in the matter. The bench noted there are two complaints before the court -- one by Ruby Devi and the other in connection with the death of a journalist. "State is directed to file separate replies in the case," said the bench, fixing the matter for further hearing on November 8.
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, also told forensic labs, examining the digital evidence in the matter, to expedite the process of submitting evidence in the case.
The bench expressed surprise that out of a gathering of 4,000-5,000 people, only 23 people are eyewitnesses to the incident, where a car ploughed into the farmers' protest.
Salve, at the outset submitted that out of 68, thirty witnesses have recorded their statements under 164 CrPC. Of these, 23 are eyewitnesses. Chief Justice queried that in a case where there were hundreds of farmers in a rally, only 23 people were there?
Salve replied that the government gave an advertisement and the people who saw the accused in the car are already there. "Digital media (large numbers) has been recovered. There are overlapping videos," he added.
Salve further contended that there was also a person who was conducting videography of the event, and the digital evidence would be sent to labs so that they can be admitted as evidence in the case.
On the aspect of few eyewitnesses in the matter, Justice Kant pointed out that mostly local people were there at the spot and after the incident most of them have been agitating for an inquiry. He told Salve that accessibility and identification of such persons in the vehicle should not be a major issue.
Salve replied 164 statements can be submitted to the top court in a sealed cover and added that 16 accused have been identified. The bench, in its order, said: "Regarding witness protection, we direct the witnesses to be provided protection by the state. We further direct that 164 statements... to be recorded expeditiously."
The top court had registered a petition based on a letter by two lawyers seeking a probe by the CBI in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.
A total of eight people, including four farmers and a local journalist, apart from the two BJP men and their driver, were killed in the incident. Farmers were allegedly mowed down by a car of Ashish Misra, son of Union Minister of State Ajay Misra Teni.