'No Justification to Continue in Office' Says SKM on Ajay Mishra After Court's Rebuke
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha(SKM), on late Monday evening, hailed the order of the Allahabad High Court rejecting the bail pleas of four accused, Ankit Das, Sumit Jaiswal, Lavkush and Shishupal in the Lakhimpur Kheri case. Four farmers and one local journalist were crushed to death, allegedly by Ashish Mishra by an SUV, and others were accused when the farmers were returning from a protest in Uttar Pradesh's Tikonia.
SKM, a collective of farmers' organisations, said that Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni has no moral ground to continue in office after the court's observation. It said," After the remarks made on the conduct of the Minister of State for Home in the court order, there is no justification for Ajay Mishra Teni to continue in the ministerial post. This order gives hope that the wheel of justice has started turning in the right direction after the Supreme Court cancelled the bail of Ashish Mishra."
SKM added that the High Court while rejecting all the arguments made by these accused, has underlined the political clout of the accused and said that in such a situation, there is a possibility of destruction of evidence and impact on the witnesses if they get bail.
WHAT DID THE COURT OBSERVE?
Listening to the bail pleas of the four accused, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh from the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court said that the ministers like Mishra should have restrained in making comments on the agitating farmers at the gates of the national capital against three contentious farm laws.
It said, “Political persons holding high offices should make public utterances in a decent language considering its repercussions in the Society. They should not make irresponsible statements as they are required to conduct themselves, befitting their status and dignity of high office which they hold.”
Further, he said: “As submitted, this incident might not have taken place if the Union Minister of State for Home did not make alleged utterances, as has been pointed out in the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Investigating Agency and also mentioned in the charge sheet. Several innocent lives would not have got lost in a cruellest, diabolic, barbaric, gruesome and inhuman manner allegedly by his very promising son and other accused.”
Finally, Justice Kumar noted that “It has been stated in the charge sheet that the farmers got agitated, and they were protesting peacefully against the statement of the Union Minister of State for Home, who allegedly said that the farmers would be expelled and chased away from District Kheri.”
Relying on the arguments of farmers' lawyers, the court maintained that the accused enjoys political clout and can influence the witnesses in the case.
It said, “The charge-sheet would disclose overwhelming evidence against the accused-applicant and other co-accused for the commission of the offence, which has been termed cruel, diabolic, brutal, barbaric, depraved, gruesome and inhumane. Five people lost their lives by the alleged dastardly act of the accused- the applicant and other co-accused. The accused-applicant and the main accused, Ashish Mishra 'Monu' belong to very influential political families as said and apprehension of the prosecution them interfering with the course of justice, tampering with the evidence and influencing the witnesses, cannot be ruled out at this stage.”
Interestingly, the witnesses in the Lakhimpur Kheri case have alleged that they were targeted by the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party after the party was re-elected in Uttar Pradesh. Hardeep Singh, an eyewitness in the case, alleged that he was attacked on April 12 when he was returning from the Gurudwara. He had reportedly said that the attackers threatened to shoot him if he testified before the court. Another witness, Diljot Singh had alleged that he was attacked on the eve of the declaration of Assembly elections results when the members of the BJP said, “We have won now, and we will take care of you!”
The court also raised questions on the conduct of the Lakhimpur Kheri administration when it allowed a sports event attended by then Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and Ajay Mishra Teni even when the farmers had gathered to protest BJP leaders and the section 144 of Indian Penal Code was enforced in the entire area.
It said, “This is also quite intriguing that when Section 144 CrPC was clamped in the area, why wrestling competition was not cancelled. The lawmakers cannot be seen to be law violators. This Court cannot believe that it would not have been within the knowledge of the Deputy Chief Minister of the State that in the area, provisions of Section 144 CrPC were clamped, and any assembly or gathering was prohibited. Despite this, the wrestling competition was organised, and the Union Minister of State for Home and the Deputy Chief Minister decided to be present as Chief Guest etc in the event.”
WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?
The charge sheet by the special investigative team suggests that Ashish Mishra and the other four accused tried to teach a lesson to the agitating farmers after they dug a temporary helipad made for the helicopter of deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya who came to Tikonia to inaugurate a Dangal or Wresting tournament. The farmers were also agitating about the alternate route used by Maurya's convoy when the protesters were returning after their protest. Ashish Mishra, son of Ajay Mishra and four other accused crushed them to death leading to the total deaths of eight persons, including a local journalist. The charge sheet maintained that the barbaric act was a crudely designed conspiracy.
Formed after the intervention of the Supreme Court under the monitoring of retired justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, the Special Investigation Team in the matter had found incriminating evidence against Ashish Mishra. After the finalisation of the investigation, the SIT had urged the chief judicial magistrate to replace lesser charges in a case like causing death by negligence with an attempt to murder, saying that it was a “pre-planned conspiracy causing death”.
The SIT had also urged the CJM to replace IPC sections 279 (rash driving/riding), 338 (causing grievous injuries by negligence) and 304A (causing death by a rash and negligent act) with IPC section 307 (attempt to murder), among others in the case related to the October 3 violence, in which four farmers were among those killed. The SIT retained IPC sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of the offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
It also recommended promulgation of IPC 326 (voluntarily causing injuries by dangerous weapons), 34 (acts by several persons with common intentions) and sections 3/25/30 of the Arms Act in warrants of the 13 accused.
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