Lakhimpur Kheri violence case: Supreme Court maintains status quo, interim bail of Ashish Mishra to continue till next hearing
The Supreme Court on Tuesday maintained status quo on the regular bail application of Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra, for his alleged involvement in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case of 2021 that led to the death of eight people, including four farmers.
The Apex Court, while observing that the trial was proceeding on the right path, noted that it was receiving regular reports from the Trial Judge regarding the trial and cross examination of witnesses.
It directed the Trial Court to continue apprising it with future progress in the case and directed the Registry to post the matter for further hearing.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the families of victim farmers, expressed concern over the slow pace of trial.
The Bench, while refusing to agree with Bhushan, said the progress reports of trial court judges showed otherwise. It noted that the chief examination of three witnesses had been completed, adding that only on one day during the trial, the Presiding Officer was not available.
The Apex Court said it did not want to use the term ‘monitoring,’ but that it was having an ‘indirect supervision’ over the trial.
The Bench, while noting that it had gone through three additional letters related to the case, ordered that interim directions would continue till the next date of hearing.
Earlier on January 25, the Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J.K. Maheshwari had granted interim bail of eight weeks to Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra, for his alleged involvement in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case of 2021 that led to the death of eight people, including four farmers.
The top court of the country had observed that it was not expressing final opinion on the regular bail plea of Mishra and other petitioners, but passing an interim order, taking in view the concerns for fair trial of petitioners and their right to liberty under Article 21, which had to be balanced with the right of the State.
The Apex Court, while keeping the regular bail application filed by Mishra pending, granted him interim bail. It then directed the Registry to list the matter for March 14 for directions after the trial court sent a report on the status of witnesses being examined.
The top court of the country issued a slew of directions to be followed by Mishra during the period of interim bail. He was directed to leave the state of Uttar Pradesh within one week of his release and not to stay either in UP or the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
The Bench further told Mishra to inform the trial court about his location. It warned that any attempt by family members of Mishra or Mishra himself to influence the witnesses would lead to cancellation of his bail.
Mishra was directed to attend the trial court proceedings regularly and not to seek any adjournment. Any attempt by Mishra to delay the trial would be taken as valid ground to cancel his bail, it added.
The accused was directed to mark his attendance in the police station of the jurisdiction of his location and surrender his passport before the trial court. Mishra was told to enter the State of Uttar Pradesh only to attend the trial court proceedings.
The Apex Court further granted interim bail to the four people, who were accused in the counter-case (registered against the farmers), invoking its suo motu powers.
The top court of the country directed that the four co-accused be released on interim bail until further orders, subject to furnishing bail bonds to the trial court.
It directed the trial court to prioritise the deposition of protected witnesses and send progress report to the Supreme Court over the matter.
The Bench had reserved orders in the case on January 19, after hearing Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi for Mishra, Additional Advocate General of UP Garima Prashad and Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave for the relatives of victims of the crime.