‘Unwarranted hurry’: SC cancels bail of minister’s son in Lakhimpur case

The top court asked the Allahabad high court to decide his bail plea afresh after giving due hearing to the victim’s families
Lakhimpur Kheri violence scene. (HT PHOTO)
Lakhimpur Kheri violence scene. (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Apr 18, 2022 12:58 PM IST
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday cancelled the bail granted to Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’, underlining the Allahabad high court considered “irrelevant factors” and showed “unwarranted hurry” in granting the relief to the main accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case.

A bench, led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, directed Mishra to surrender within a week. It asked the high court to decide his bail plea afresh after giving due hearing to the victim’s families, who complained of not being provided sufficient opportunity to oppose the bail plea.

The bench, which also included justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, held it was incumbent upon the high court to grant a hearing to the next of kin of those killed in the violence at every stage until the trial gets over.

It said the high court erroneously relied heavily on the first information report at the time of allowing Mishra’s bail plea even as the charge sheet in the case had been filed.

Eight people were killed in the violence on October 3, 2021. Four farmers and a journalist were run over by a car allegedly belonging to Mishra. In the ensuing violence, three people – two political workers and a driver – were killed.

On November 17, the bench set up a new Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the violence and included three Indian Police Service officers in it.

The top court, which initiated suo motu (on its own motion) proceedings into the matter, also appointed former Punjab and Haryana high court judge Rakesh Kumar Jain to monitor the probe into the violence.

After Mishra was granted bail on February 10, a petition seeking its cancellation was filed in the top court by family members of the three victims.

While reserving its order on the petition on April 4, the bench remarked that it expected the Uttar Pradesh government to challenge the bail to Mishra after the SIT’s recommendation twice in February to appeal against the reprieve to the main accused in the case.

The state government, on its part, indicated its reluctance to do so, claiming that Mishra is neither a flight risk nor a threat to the witnesses in the case. Lending tacit support to the February 10 order of the high court, the government added that it did not accept the recommendation of the top court-mandated SIT seeking cancellation of Mishra’s bail since the team’s apprehensions regarding threats to witnesses were not substantiated.

The petition seeking cancellation of bail was filed by Jagjeet Singh, Pawan Kashyap, and Sukhwinder Singh, the kin of three of the victims who died in the violence. Ashish Mishra was arrested on October 9 after the top court reproached the state government for the way the state handled the investigation in the case.

In their petition, victims’ kin feared the witnesses in the case would be intimidated as the accused is influential. They said the bail order did not consider the heinous nature of the crime, the overwhelming evidence against the accused in the charge sheet, the likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice, and the possibility of his tampering with evidence or influencing witnesses.

The plea questioned the inferences drawn by the high court by saying, “There might be a possibility that the driver tried to speed up the vehicle to save himself, on account of which, the incident had taken place.”

It pointed out that the high court erroneously relied on the first information report instead of the charge sheet which clearly mentioned that the cars involved in the incident were driven at speed of 70-100 kmph as it approached the protesting farmers.

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Saturday, June 25, 2022