SC to hear on March 11 plea for cancellation of bail of Ashish Mishra in Lakhimpur case


PTI, Mar 4, 2022, 4:55 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear on March 11 a plea challenging the grant of bail by the Allahabad High Court to Ashish Mishra, son of Union minister Ajay Mishra, in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that left eight people, including four farmers, dead.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana took note of the submissions of lawyer Prashant Bhushan that the other accused in the case are moving courts for grant of bail citing the relief granted to Ashish Mishra and asked him to intimate the high court that the top court is hearing the plea for cancellation of bail.

“I can list on March 11 only. Other judges have to be available,” the CJI said.

A single-judge bench of the high court, on February 10, had granted bail to Mishra who had spent four months in custody.

Bhushan submitted that the high court while granting the bail, did not follow the law laid down and did not consider aspects like tampering with evidence and fleeing from justice.

“The problem is that other accused are also moving,” he added.

He sought a direction to the high court that for the time being, the bail plea of other accused be not considered.

“File a memo before the high court that we are hearing on March 11,” the bench said.

Three family members of farmers, who were killed in the violence, have sought a stay on the February 10 bail order of the high court, saying the verdict was “unsustainable in the eyes of law as there has been no meaningful and effective assistance by the state to the court in the matter”.

Recently, another plea seeking cancellation of bail of accused Ashish Mishra was filed by advocates Shiv Kumar Tripathi and CS Panda on whose letter the apex court had taken the suo motu cognizance of the incident.

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 moved 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died in the violence that triggered outrage among opposition parties and farmer groups agitating over the Centre’s now-repealed agri laws.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.

The plea for cancellation of Mishra’s bail has been filed by farmers, Jagjeet Singh, Pawan Kashyap, and Sukhwinder Singh, through lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

“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 offences notice of bail application should ordinarily be given to the Public Prosecutor,” the plea said. 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 crushing 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 concerning 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 the 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, it alleged.

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