Lakhimpur Kheri massacre: SC informed that trial could take up to five years

The Supreme Court was informed by the UP government that Ashish Mishra's trial for the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre might take up to five years.

Lakhimpur Kheri massacre: SC informed that trial could take up to five years

The Uttar Pradesh government has reportedly informed the Supreme Court in a status report that the trial of Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister Ajay “Teni” Mishra, accused of killing farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in October 2021, could take another five years to complete.

This was revealed on Wednesday, January 11th 2023, when a bench of Justices Surya Kant and V Ramasubramanian orally observed, “Report says it will take at least five years. More than 200 witnesses”.

A month ago, the Supreme Court asked its registrar to check with the Additional Sessions Judge at Lakhimpur Kheri to get a tentative time required for the case’s conclusion.

Bar and Bench reported that advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the complainants, requested the bench for a speedy day-to-day trial. He alleged that the complainants have been facing threats.

“There are material witnesses, who were threatened and badly beaten up. They can be examined first on a day-to-day basis… It needs day-to-day trial. They have been threatened, Minister had said a lesson will be taught (sic)”, the Bar and Bench quoted Bhushan.

He also added that three people were brutally attacked earlier. The bench responded that it was aware of the situation.

Mishra’s advocate Mukul Rohtagi opposed Bhushan’s plea for a day-to-day hearing of the case for a speedy trial.

The apex court had also asked the Uttar Pradesh government to file a status report regarding the case’s progress, the investigation’s pace, etc. The report submitted by the Uttar Pradesh government was in reference to this query.

On October 3rd 2021, an SUV in Mishra’s convoy allegedly mowed eight farmers protesting the visit of his father and Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Chandra Maurya. The farmers were agitating against now repealed four contentious farm laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Union government.

After remaining elusive after the incident, allegedly using his father’s influence, Mishra was arrested later in October 2021 by the special investigation team (SIT) of the Uttar Pradesh Police formed to investigate the case. The SIT filed a 5,000-page-long chargesheet in the trial court.

Mishra filed his first bail petition in the Lakhimpur Kheri trial court in November 2021. However, his bail plea was rejected by the trial court. Following this, Mishra moved the High Court with his bail plea.

In February 2022, before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the High Court granted Mishra bail observing that the SUV driver may have sped up to save his life amid the agitated protesters.

Surprisingly, the Uttar Pradesh government didn’t oppose the bail granted by the High Court. The victims’ families had alleged that Mishra’s release on bail before the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections was quite important for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP won a landslide victory in the election.

The aggrieved survivors filed a petition against the bail plea in the Supreme Court, and the latter cancelled the bail granted to Mishra in April 2022. It remanded the matter for fresh reconsideration to the High Court.

The High Court rejected Mishra’s bail plea in July 2022. This prompted the accused to appeal at the apex court. The apex court sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the issue in September 2022 and asked how long the accused could be kept in jail without trial.

The Supreme Court has also asked Additional Advocate General Garima Prasad to confirm whether the co-accused are still in custody. The bench was informed that the trial is listed for further hearing on January 13th. The apex court has fixed January 19th as the date to hear the bail plea of Mishra in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre case.

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