A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the grant of bail by the Allahabad High Court to Ashish Mishra, son of union minister Ajay Mishra, who was arrested in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that killed eight people including four farmers on October 3 last year.
Three family members of the farmers who were killed in the violence have sought a stay on the February 10 bail order of the Lucknow bench of the high court saying the verdict was “unsustainable in eyes of law as there has been no meaningful and effective assistance by the state to the court in the matter”.
“The lack of any discussion in the High Court’s order as regards the settled principles for grant of bail is on account of lack of any substantive submissions to this effect by the State as the accused wields substantial influence over the state government as his father is a Union Minister from the same political party that rules the State. The impugned order is unsustainable in eyes of law as there has been no meaningful and effective assistance by the State to the court in the matter contrary to the object of the first Proviso to Section 439 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which provides that in grave offenses notice of bail application should ordinarily be given to the Public Prosecutor,” said the plea which has been filed by Jagjeet Singh, Pawan Kashyap, and Sukhwinder Singh through lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
There has been an improper and arbitrary exercise contrary to settled law by the high court which has granted bail without at all considering the heinous nature of the crime, it said.
Seeking “stay of the impugned bail order”, the plea narrated the sequence of evidence and said, “The act of deliberately crashing the peacefully returning farmers by the Thar vehicle on the instructions of the accused from the back was not an act of negligence or carelessness but a pre-planned conspiracy as the accused thereafter from the farms circled back to the place of the ‘dangal’ event at around 4:00 pm and acted as if nothing had happened”.
The plea said the high court did not consider the “overwhelming evidence” against the accused, position and status of the accused with reference to the victim and witnesses and the likelihood of him fleeing from justice and repeating the offence while granting the bail. There was also the possibility of his tampering with the witnesses and obstructing the course of justice, it said.
“At least 27 witnesses have testified that they either saw the accused at the scene of the crime or saw him running away from the scene of the crime. At least 8 witnesses testified that they saw and heard the accused and his supporters asking the driver of the Thar vehicle to crush the protesters,” it said.
Post-mortem reports reveal that injuries found on the bodies of the deceased are consistent with the main allegation against the accused, that is murdering the victims through his car in a pre-planned conspiracy, it said.
At least 37 witnesses have testified that they saw and heard firing of arms, it said, adding, “FSL reports reveal that firearms were in fact used and that a 32 bore and 315 bore firearm belonging to the accused were used for firing, and unspent cartridges from the 315 bore firearm were recovered from the Thar Vehicle. Even the victims were prevented from bringing the relevant material as regards the settled principles for grant of bail to the notice of the High Court as their counsel ‘got’ disconnected from the hearing on January 18, 2022 before he could barely make any submissions and repeated calls to the court staff to get reconnected were of no avail,” it alleged.
A single judge bench of the high court, on February 10, had granted the relief of bail to Mishra who had spent four months in custody.
On October 3, last year, eight people were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri during violence that erupted when farmers were protesting against Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya’s visit to the area.
Four farmers were mowed down by the SUV. A driver and two BJP workers were then allegedly lynched by angry farmers. A journalist also died in the violence that triggered outrage among opposition parties and farmer groups agitating over the Centre’s now-repealed agri laws.
On November 17 last year, the top court had appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the probe by Uttar Pradesh SIT which will also get three IPS officers who are not natives of the state.
Recently, another plea seeking cancellation of the bail of accused Ashish Mishra was filed by advocates Shiv Kumar Tripathi and CS Panda on whose letter the apex court had taken suo moto cognizance of the incident.