The Supreme Court on Monday expressed dissatisfaction over the mixing of witnesses in different FIRs in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case. The apex court proposed to appoint a former judge from Punjab and Haryana High Court to monitor the ongoing investigation.
The top court suggested that Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain (Retd) or Justice Ranjit Singh (Retd) from Punjab and Haryana High Court can oversee the Lakhimpur Kheri investigation.
"We're trying to infuse impartiality in the probe. We don't want to give the case to the CBI, we want to protect the evidence," said the SC Bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.
Eight people, including four farmers, were killed in violence during a farmers' protest in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3. The apex court had on October 26 directed the Uttar Pradesh government to provide protection to witnesses under the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018.
The top court had also asked the Uttar Pradesh government to record the statements of other witnesses before the judicial magistrate under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and expedite the examination of digital evidence by experts. Statements under section 164 of the CrPC are recorded before a judicial magistrate and they have evidentiary value.
The police have so far arrested several accused, including Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra, in connection with the case. Four farmers were mowed down by an SUV in Lakhimpur Kheri when a group agitating against the Centre's three farm laws was holding a demonstration against the visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on October 3.
Two BJP workers and a driver were beaten to death allegedly by the angry protesters, while a local journalist was also killed in the violence. Farmer leaders have claimed that Ashish Mishra was in one of the cars that allegedly knocked down the protesters but the minister has denied the allegations.
Several farmer organisations are protesting against the three laws -- The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 -- since last November. The apex court had stayed the implementation of these laws in January.