Not going the way expected: SC mulls appointing retired HC judge to monitor probe in Lakhimpur Kheri violence
New Delhi, November 8, 2021
The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its dissatisfaction with the SIT probe in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence incident with regards to the seizure of mobile phone of only one accused and the process of collection of evidence in the two FIRs.
It told the Uttar Pradesh government that it is inclined to appoint a retired high court judge to monitor day-to-day investigation till charge sheet is filed.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N. V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli told a counsel, "We are trying to introduce impartiality and fairness in the matter..."
At the outset, the Chief Justice told senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, "There is nothing in the status report. We granted 10 days time...lab reports have not come so far. It (the probe in the incident) is not going the way we expected."
The top court queried Salve why mobile phones of all accused in Lakhimpur Kheri incident have not been seized, except that of prime accused Ashish Misra?
Justice Kohli specifically asked whether it is the stand of the government that the other accused did not use cell phones.
Salve submitted there were a total 16 accused in the case, out of which three died and 13 have been arrested.
Kohli asked, "The mobile phones of one accused out of 13 accused has been seized?"
The top court told the Uttar Pradesh government that both incidents -- mowing down of protesting farmers by a vehicle and the lynching of the accused -- have to be investigated with impartiality and fairness.
The top court said prima facie view it appears that one particular accused is being benefited by recording statements of witnesses in a particular manner.
Justice Kant said: "What appears to us is that SIT is unable to keep the investigative distance between the FIRs (one where farmers were mowed down by the car and the other accused were killed)...important to ensure evidence in 219 and 220 (FIRs) recorded independently".
The bench, stating it is not confident regarding the process adopted by Uttar Pradesh SIT to record the evidence, said: "We are inclined to appoint a judge from a different high court to monitor day-to-day investigation...till the charge sheet is filed."
The bench suggested the names of two former Punjab and Haryana High Court judges to oversee the manner in which witnesses' statements are being recorded to avoid mixing up of the cases.
The bench sought response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the appointment of an independent judge to monitor the investigation till charge sheet is filed and posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.