Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni, is the prime accused in the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence. The top court will take up the matter for further hearing in January next year.
NEW DELHI — While hearing a bail plea filed by Ashish Mishra, prime accused in the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence incident, the Supreme Court on Monday observed that balance has to be struck between the rights of the victims’ and the accused, and further queried, for how long can Mishra be kept behind the bars.
A bench comprising justices Surya Kant and Krishna Murari asked its registrar to ascertain from the Additional Sessions Judge, Lakhimpur Kheri, how much time the trial in the case is likely to take to conclude. Mishra is the son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni.
During the hearing, justice Kant queried the Additional Advocate General of Uttar Pradesh Garima Prasad, “how long someone should be kept in…victim has rights, the accused also has some rights, society has interest in all these things…keeping him indefinitely would amount to pre-judging him as guilty…”
Opposing Mishra’s bail plea, Uttar Pradesh government counsel said it is a grave offence and there are statements of injured eyewitnesses regarding Mishra’s presence at the crime spot.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Mishra, said his client was not present at the crime spot.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing the victims’ families, vehemently opposed Mishra’s bail plea and added that in murder cases when trial court and the high court had refused bail, then in such matters the apex court should not interfere. Dave said this is a very serious case and pointed out that witnesses in the case have already been attacked.
The bench said the witnesses have been granted protection as per order of the court. Rohatgi said the records show that the person in the car was one Sumit Jaiswal and his client was not at the scene of the crime. He added that Mishra was at a wrestling match and records of mobile tower locations prove that, and questioned how is murder charge attracted?
Dave submitted that crime was premeditated and cited Mishra’s father’s statement that protesting farmers will be taught a lesson. “If someone can be killed merely because they are agitating, then nobody is safe in a democracy…,” said Dave.
After hearing arguments, the top court sought details of the time frame within which the trial would be completed and also asked the UP government to file an additional affidavit giving details about the progress and pace of investigation and proceedings on complaint by Jaiswal. The top court will take up the matter for further hearing in January next year.
On October 3, 2021, eight people, including four farmers, were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri in clashes during a farmers’ protest. Mishra was arrested on October 9 last year in the case.
The family members of the farmers, mowed down by a car belonging to Mishra in Lakhimpur Kheri, have been opposing Mishra’s bail plea. — IANS