New Delhi, Oct 26 (MNN) The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure protection of witnesses in the Lakhimur Kheri killings case and expeditious completion of recording of their statements.
The apex court will now take up the hearing of the case on November 8.
During the previous hearing, the apex court Bench of CJI NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli had pulled up the state government and directed it to dispel the impression that it was dragging its feet in the matter.
In Lakhimpur Kheri, eight persons were killed on October 3 after four farmers were allegedly mowed down by a four-wheeler of Ashish Mishra, a son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’. Four of the persons killed included BJP workers and one journalist.
Ashish has since been arrested and charged with murder. He is presently in police custody, though he is said to be suffering from dengue.
The Supreme Court had taken suo motu coginsance of the killings after two lawyers wrote to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and sought a CBI probe.
Appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday, Senior Advocate Harish Salve told the court that 30 of the 68 witnesses have got recorded their statements under Section 164 of the CrPC. A total of 23 out of these are eyewitnesses, he said.
When the apex court pointed out that there were hundreds of farmers at the rally in Lakhimpur Kheri on the fateful day, Salve said that authorities had put out an advertisement to seek public to come out and give any evidence in the case.
The counsel also offered to submit to the court in a sealed cover what all had been recorded under Section 164, adding that all 16 accused in the case had since been identified.
When CJI Ramana asked about witness protection, Salve said that they have already been provided security.
The CJI pointed out that the court had seen the second status report filed by UP to apprise the Bench of different steps taken and development in the case so far.
When Senior Advocate Arun Bhardwaj appearing for Ruby Devi, whose husband was killed in the violence, told the court that the accused are roaming free and threatening her, Salve assured the court that the state police will be informed accordingly.
The court also asked the state to file separate replies to two complainants – one by Ruby Devi and one on the death of a journalist in the violence.