Legal

Lakhimpur Kheri violence: Thousands of farmers, but only 23 eyewitnesses? Supreme Court asks UP govt

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 26) directed the Uttar Pradesh government to grant protection to the witnesses of Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which eight people including four farmers were killed during a farmers’ protest. A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana asked the UP government, represented by senior advocates Harish Salve and Garima Prasad, to record the statements of other relevant witnesses before judicial magistrates under Section 164 of the CrPC.

“We direct the District Judge concerned to entrust the task of recording of evidence under Section 164 of the CrPC to the nearest judicial magistrates available,” said the bench which also comprised Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.

Statements under Section 164 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) are recorded before a judicial magistrate and they have evidentiary value.
The bench asked Salve to convey its concerns to forensic labs and experts on preparation of reports on electronic evidence of the incident and also directed the state government to file its report on two complaints including the one related to the lynching of a journalist. “The state is directed to file separate replies in the cases,” the bench said and fixed the plea for further hearing on November 8.

During the hearing, the bench raised the question over the number of eye witnesses made by the prosecution in the case and said, “The case is that thousands of farmers were going on and a rally was going on. Only 23 witnesses are eye witnesses?”

Salve said that out of 68 witnesses, statements of 30 witnesses have been recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC and some more testimonies will be recorded. “Of these 30 witnesses, 23 claim to be eyewitnesses. A lot of witnesses are formal witnesses of recovery and all,” Salve said. He also submitted several digital evidence have been recovered and sent for examination by experts.

Observing that the probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence should not be an “unending story”, the Supreme Court on October 20 had rapped the government, saying the court was getting the impression that the state police was dragging its feet, and also ordered the protection of witnesses.
The apex court was hearing a matter about the October 3 violence in Lakhimpur Kheri in which eight persons including four farmers were killed during a farmers’ protest and over ten accused, including Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, have been arrested so far in the case.