The Supreme Court has taken cognisance of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in which eight people were killed – including four protesting farmers mowed down by SUVs including one allegedly carrying Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana is scheduled to hear the matter on Thursday (October 7).
The incident has triggered a major political storm, with opposition parties accusing the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh of shielding the culprits including Ashish. There has been growing outcry about how the state authorities and police are handling the case.
According to the causelist uploaded on the apex court website, a three-judge bench comprising CJI Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli will hear the matter titled ‘In re violence in Lakhimpur Kheri (UP) leading to loss of life’ on Thursday.
Four farmers were mowed down by an SUV in Lakhinpur Kheri when a group agitating against the Union government’s farm laws was holding a demonstration against the visit of UP deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on October 3. Two BJP workers, a driver and a freelance journalist died in the violence that ensued.
An FIR under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (murder) has been registered against Ashish Mishra and others in the incident in the Tikonia police station but no arrest has been made so far. Farmer leaders have claimed that Ashish was in one of the cars that allegedly knocked down the protesters. The minister has denied the allegations and said that their “driver” lost control of the car, but farmers claim they have eyewitness and videographic evidence placing Ashish at the spot.
Additional Director General (Law and Order) of the state Prashant Kumar had announced on Monday that the government will order a probe headed by a retired high court judge and give compensation of Rs 45 lakh each to the families of the dead farmers. Their kin will also get a government job. The injured will get Rs 10 lakh.
Two lawyers had on Tuesday written a letter to the CJI seeking a high-level judicial inquiry, involving the CBI, under the supervision of the apex court into the incident. The letter by the two advocates had urged the CJI to treat it as public interest litigation (PIL) so that guilty could be brought to justice . It had also sought direction to the home ministry and the police to register an FIR in the case and punish those involved in the incident.
The apex court, while hearing a separate plea by a farmers’ body protesting against the three new farm laws and seeking directions to authorities to allow it to stage satyagrah at Jantar Mantar, had on Monday observed that nobody takes the responsibility when such incidents happen.
The observations by the top court had come when Attorney General K.K. Venugopal referred to the unfortunate incident at Lakhimpur Kheri.