New Delhi: Not enough has been done by the authorities, senior lawyer Harish Salve, representing the Uttar Pradesh government over a PIL on the Lakhimpur Kheri deaths, told the Supreme Court today, as the state and its police force face questions over their handling of the incident.
“Yes, the authorities should have done the needful…” Mr Salve told a bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana, on a day that one of the accused – Ashish Mishra, who has yet to be arrested – brazenly skipped summons from the police, leaving a senior official waiting.
Ashish Mishra is Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son, and has been accused by farmers of being in the convoy that ran over a group of protesting farmers in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri on Sunday.
He has been accused of murder and negligence in a FIR filed by the police.
Four farmers died as an SUV rammed into a group of people who had their backs to the speeding oncoming vehicle. Four others, including a journalist, died in the violence that followed.
“We are not satisfied with action taken by UP government so far. We expect responsible government and police. The allegations are very serious, including gunshot injuries,” the Chief Justice said.
Mr Salve said the post-mortem did not show bullet wounds, but added “… if the allegations (about the car running over farmers) are true… it is possibly Section 302 (murder)”.
To this Justice Hima Kohli, part of the bench, responded: “Possibly?”
“I said possibly because I don’t want the accused to say tomorrow I made up my mind even before the appeared… evidence is strong (and) if true then it is Section 302,” Mr Salve said.
“What is the message you (the UP government) are sending. Even in normal circumstances will police not go immediately and apprehend the accused?” the Chief Justice then asked Mr Salve.
“Whosoever is involved… will they not be taken into custody. Law should take its course,” Justice Surya Kant, also on the bench, added.
The court also appeared to rule out a CBI probe at this stage (which was part of the PIL’s demands), noting “CBI is not a solution… because of the persons (involved)“.
On Tuesday a top police official told NDTV the delay in arresting, or even questioning, Ashish Mishra was because the force is “busy with negotiations….postmortems… cremations”.
Asked if the delay could be linked to the accused’s obvious connections, SN Sabat (ADGP, Lucknow Zone) said: “Attitude of the police is towards the victim and not the accused.”
Ashish Mishra was finally called for questioning yesterday, after the Supreme Court pulled up the UP government and police, asking how many had been arrested and demanding a status report.
Both Ashish Mishra and his father have denied all charges. Mr Mishra told NDTV that the car belonged to his family but neither he nor his son were in it when the incident took place.
There have also been demands for Ajay Mishra to resign. Mr Mishra met his boss, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, this week, after which government sources ruled out his quitting.