The trial of the Lakhimpur Kheri murder case will take at least five years to complete, the Sessions Judge hearing the case said in a letter sent to the Supreme Court. A bench hearing the cases related to Lakhimpur Kheri Violence, headed by Justice Surya Kant informed this to the senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for accused Ashish Mishra and advocate Prashant Bhushan, on January 11.
“The Sessions Judge’s report says, in a normal course it will take at least five years. There are 200 witnesses, 171 documents, and 27 forensic science lab reports,” said a bench of Justices Surya Kant and V Ramasubramanian in court.
Ashish Mishra, the son of Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra, is accused of ordering his driver to run over farmers participating in a rally against the controversial agricultural laws in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh in October 2021. According to the Uttar Pradesh Police FIR, four farmers were hacked down by an SUV in which Ashish Mishra was seated. Following the event, the driver and two BJP volunteers were allegedly lynched by enraged farmers. A journalist was also killed amid the violence.
Ashish has sought bail saying that he cannot be kept in custody during the period of the trial which was later cancelled. In the Supreme Court, Ashish Mishra appealed the Allahabad High Court’s decision to cancel his bail. The hearing on the case has been postponed until January 19, as announced by the Supreme Court.
Bhushan, the senior counsel representing the families of the victims killed has argued that Mishra has so far used his power and influence to silence the witnesses. In such a situation, if he gets bail, then the trial of the case will be affected and the victims will not get justice.
On the other hand, the Uttar Pradesh government has denied the attacks in Lakhimpur Kheri. During the hearing, the government notified the court that charges against all of the accused had been framed. But Bhushan has accused the state government of colluding with the minister’s son. On December 12, 2022, the Bench directed the Sessions Judge to file a report giving the estimated time required to complete the trial.
The bench asked the lawyer representing the Uttar Pradesh government, during the hearing to state whether the four suspects in a different case filed over the deaths of three passengers in the SUV that is suspected of running over farmers in the event are still being held in custody. The sessions judge’s report says that both the FIRs registered separately in the Lakhimpur Kheri case will be tried by the same court and the same presiding judge.
Bhushan has also suggested the examination of witnesses on a daily basis. He has said that at present the witnesses are also under threat. But the bench said that there would be a day-to-day hearing at the cost of all other matters pending in the trial court. The details of the four accused in FIR 220/2021 have been sought by the court, which is allegedly related to the lynching of two BJP workers and the SUV driver.
The Charges Filed in Lakhimpur Kheri Violence Case
A total of 13 people, including Ashish Mishra, have been charged under IPC sections 147 and 148 which are related to rioting, 149 (unlawful assembly), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 427 (mischief), and 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy), as well as section 177 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
Ankit Das, Nandan Singh Bisht, Latif Kale, Satyam alias Satya Prakash Tripathi, Shekhar Bharti, Sumit Jaiswal, Ashish Pandey, Lavkush Rana, Shishu Pal, Ullas Kumar alias Mohit Trivedi, Rinku Rana, and Dharmendra Banjara are the other 12 defendants.