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No confidence in UP panel; retired judge from another state should oversee Lakhimpur case probe: SC

Stock photo: Supreme Court of India

New Delhi, Nov 8 (MNN) The Uttar Pradesh government on Monday got another thumbs-down from the Supreme Court in the Lakhimpur Kheri killings case, as the apex court expressed no-confidence in the one-man panel appointed by the state to probe the violence.

The apex court opined that the probe should be overseen by a judge from a different state and put forth the names of Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain and Justice Ranjit Singh, who retired from the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

On October 7, even as the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the October 3 violence in Lakhimpur Kheri, the state had said that retired High Court Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava will inquire into the death of eight persons, including four farmers.

The commission shall complete the inquiry within two months from the date of the issuance of notification and any change in its tenure shall be at the behest of the government, an order dated October 6 by Additional Chief Secretary AK Awasthi read.

The single-member commission of inquiry was to have its headquarters at Lakhimpur Kheri.

An apex court Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said on Monday that they were inclined to appoint a former judge from another high court to monitor this probe since “we are not confident of your state judicial committee overseeing it”.

After senior counsel Harish Salve, who represents the state government in the matter, sought time for getting instructions from his client, the Bench posted the matter for November 12.

Three FIRs were registered —  one for the death of four farmers, another for death of others in subsequent violence, and another for death of a journalist.

The apex court asserted that probe in all three FIRs needs to be independent of each other and that evidence in one case cannot be used to protect the accused in another case.

On October 20, the Supreme Court had remarked that it was getting the impression that the Uttar Pradesh government was “dragging its feet” in the case and asked it to dispel that feeling.

Four farmers and a journalist were mowed down allegedly by a four-wheeler of Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni, while three others were killed in the violence that followed on October 3.

During the hearing, the Bench had also opined at one point in time that the Central Bureau of Investigation was “not a solution”.

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