On Wednesday (17 November), the Supreme Court of India appointed former Punjab and Haryana High Court judge, Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, to monitor the probe into Lakhimpur Kheri violence.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana and justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said that Justice Jain would monitor a time-bound investigation in order to “ensure transparency, fairness and absolute impartiality” in its outcome.
Further, the court reconstituted the Special Investigation Team (SIT) by appointing directly recruited IPS officers S B Shiradkar, Padmaja Chauhan and Preetinder Singh.
On Monday (15 November), the Uttar Pradesh government had agreed to the Supreme Court’s suggestion to appoint a retired judge to monitor the investigation into the Lakhimpur Kheri case.
None From The State
The court noted that Justice Jain “may have no roots in the State of Uttar Pradesh” and his appointment was meant to ensure “full and complete justice to the victims of crime”. “While investigating such offences, justice must not only be done but also be seen and perceived to be done,” the court was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
The bench pointed out that the three IPS officers for the SIT, though they were from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, did not hail from the state. It added that senior IPS officers had been hand-picked to quell any “lurking suspicion in respect of the fairness and independence of such an investigation”.
The overhauling of the SIT was necessary to “preserve the faith and trust of the people in the administration of the criminal justice system”, the court said. The SIT should spare no effort to reach the truth, including the use of the latest technology in forensic science, it stressed.
The court said the newly-constituted SIT, acting under the “continuous monitoring” of Justice Jain, would be free to seek assistance or associate with the local police in the investigation. “The SIT shall make all efforts to conclude the investigation expeditiously and file the chargesheet,” it directed.
The court said that the suo motu case will be listed again after Justice Jain filed his report on the filing of the charge sheet, and refrained from making any comments on the merits of the case.
“Given the nascent stage of the investigation, we are consciously reluctant to make any observation on the merits of the case, as that would have an impact on the parties involved and influence the prosecuting agency and the courts which would ultimately look into the case,” the order noted.
The Lakhimpur Kheri incident occurred on 3 October in which eight persons including four farmers died, along with Bharatiya Janata Party workers, part of the convoy of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni.
The protesting farmers accused the minister of mowing down the farmers while the minister accused the protesters of lynching the persons in the convoy, attacking his car with stones that inflicted a fatal head injury on his driver.
The SIT team has so far arrested 13 persons, included the son of the Union minister Ashish Mishra alias Monu. The SIT investigation has revealed that the ballistics show that the shots were fired from his licensed weapon, and also that of his close aide Ankit Das.
In its seven-page order, the court described the deaths as a “tragic loss of lives of protesters as well as some other persons”. It observed that it was “equally concerned about guaranteeing an impartial, fair, just and thorough investigation”.
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