Ashish Mishra bail plea: Supreme Court directs Lakhimpur Kheri ASJ to notify time needed for conclusion of trial
Observing that a balance should be struck between the rights of the victims and the accused, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the first Additional Sessions judge at Lakhimpur Kheri to apprise the Apex Court about the time it would need to finish the trial in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case involving Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni.
The Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Krishna Murari, while hearing the bail petition of Mishra, said that it considered the seriousness of crime, the period taken by the court to finish the trial and the period spent by the accused behind bars, while taking up bail pleas.
It asked the Uttar Pradesh government, represented by Additional Advocate General of UP Garima Prashad, as to how could Mishra be kept indefinitely behind the bars as an undertrial.
Appearing for Mishra, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi contended that Ashish was not in the car when the incident took place and that no person died due to the alleged gun firing by him.
The photographs which were part of the record, showed that the person in the car was one Sumit Jaiswal, added Rohatgi.
He said Mishra was attending a wrestling match during that time and that there were records of mobile tower locations to prove it.
To the query by the Apex Court about the distance between the two places, Rohatgi replied that it was four kilometers.
The Apex Court then pointed out that the SIT had alleged that Mishra was at some other location initially and the scene of the crime after he came to know about the farmers protest.
Rohatgi then referred to certain photographs of the ‘dangal’ venue to show Mishra’s presence there at 2.39 pm, 2.43 pm, 2.58 pm and 3.20 pm, while the incident happened at around 2.53 pm.
The Senior Advocate contended that there were eyewitnesses asserting Mishra’s presence at the Dangal sit, adding that in the passenger seat of the car, a man wearing a blue shirt was sitting, who was not Mishra. He said the driver of the car was also pulled out and killed.
Stating that Mishra had already spent a year in jail, Rohatgi said that the case had 200 witnesses.
The State of Uttar Pradesh was further ordered to inform the status of investigation relating to the case filed against farmers for allegedly lynching three others, including the driver of Mishra’s car.
The incident dates back to October 3 last year, when a farmers’ protest turned violent in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh, leading to the death of eight people, including four peasants.
It was reported that four farmers were mowed down by a vehicle, allegedly driven by Ashish Mishra, during the protest held against the visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya to the area. However, Mishra’s Counsel had said that angry farmers beat a few people to death, including the driver of the car.
Earlier, the Allahabad High Court had granted bail to Mishra, which was vehemently opposed by the Uttar Pradesh government, as well as families of the victims.
Highlighting the grave nature of the crime, the victims had urged the Supreme Court not to release Mishra, saying that it would expose the witnesses to danger. However, the Bench pointed out that the witnesses have been granted protection as per the orders of the Court.