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Lakhimpur Kheri violence: SC reserves order on plea challenging Ashish Mishra’s bail, questions examination of evidence

“Is he (Ashish Mishra) going to tamper with evidence? We have provided extensive security He is not a flight risk,” said Advocate Jethmalani.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: April 5, 2022 4:44:24 am
Ashish Mishra at the Crime Branch office in Lakhimpur. (Express File Photo by Vishal Srivastava)

The Supreme Court Monday reserved its order on a plea by some of the relatives of the victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence last year seeking cancellation of the bail granted to prime accused Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana wondered how the Allahabad High Court had gone into the merits of the case while granting bail. “What we are worried about is how the HC went into the merits of the injuries?… We are hearing a bail matter, we don’t want to prolong. Prima facie, the question is whether bail needs to be cancelled or not. We don’t want to entertain nonsense questions like which car, post mortem etc,” the CJI remarked.

The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, referred to the recommendation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to Uttar Pradesh to challenge the HC order allowing bail. “When the SIT had given a report all authorities will be expected to act according to what the SIT said,” said the CJI.

While Ashish Mishra reiterated that he was not present at the scene of the crime when the alleged incident happened on October 3, 2021, the Uttar Pradesh government too did not seem to favour the cancelling of his bail and said it had provided security to all the witnesses and there is no threat of the accused tampering with evidence.

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Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appearing for the UP government said the report has been forwarded to the state and a decision is pending. But the CJI remarked, “This is not a matter where you wait for years,” and asked what is the stand of the state on the prayer for cancellation of bail.

Jethmalani said, “It is a serious offence… Why the SIT asked us to file SLP is he is influential and the threat of tampering with evidence. But that did not appeal to us”. Explaining this, Jethmalani said the state had provided extensive security to the witnesses and was interviewing them over the phone at regular intervals. “We provided extensive security to witnesses. Telephonically contacted all witnesses and asked them if there is any threat perception. They said no,” pointed out Jethmalani.

“Is he going to tamper with evidence? We have provided extensive security He is not a flight risk,” said Jethmalani. “If it was a repeat offender or he was a flight risk, bail should not have been granted,” said the senior counsel.

Jethmalani added that “no words can be enough to condemn what has happened”, but submitted that a mini-trial cannot be held at this stage and the finer aspects will have to be gone into by the trial court.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Dushyant Dave said the Allahabad HC had completely ignored the chargesheet and had only relied on the First Information Report (FIR) while granting bail to Ashish Mishra. “Judge completely ignores charges sheet, section 164 statements of witnesses, completely ignores that the Supreme Court has taken suo motu cognisance,” said Dave.

Justice Surya Kant asked if the victims had been heard in the HC. Dave replied they had not been as there were technical problems during the hearing, which was held virtually.

Appearing for Ashish Mishra, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar referred to CCTV evidence and said, “It is my case that I was not present at the venue”. “The driver received injuries on his parietal and occipital. He was beaten by rocks and danda. If that is why he drove that way, should that not be a circumstance that should be considered,” he said.

Kumar added that if the apex court cancels the bail, no other court will grant him the relief and he will be forced to remain in jail till the end of the trial. He said the Supreme Court could impose any additional conditions if it want to.

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