May 19, 2024

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Lakhimpur Kheri violence: Dissatisfied with UP Police probe, SC hints at giving it to an agency other than CBI

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According to The Tribune News A three-judge Bench led by CJI NV Ramana asks DGP to ensure evidence isn’t destroyed; further hearing on Oct 20

Dissatisfied with the manner in which the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case that claimed eight lives, the Supreme Court on Friday pulled up Uttar Pradesh Police for their failure to arrest the accused, including the son of a union minister.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana hinted at handing over the probe to an agency other than the CBI.

Asking the UP DGP to ensure that the evidence was protected and not destroyed by the time another agency took over the investigation, the Bench posted the matter for October 20.

“The charges are very serious…What’s the message we are sending? Is it the same way we treat other accused too — like sending notices, etc?” the Bench — which also included Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli — asked senior advocate Harish Salve, who represented the Uttar Pradesh government.

The court’s comments came after Salve said some arrests had been made and a notice had been sent to an accused asking him to join the investigation on Saturday and that warrants would be issued if he failed to appear before the police.

Terming the murder of eight people as “brutal”, the Bench said, “If a Section 302 (murder) case is registered the accused has to be apprehended immediately… The law must take its own course against all accused.”

“They (UP Police) should have done the needful,” Salve admitted even as he insisted that by the next date the investigation would be on the right track.

After perusing the details of the SIT which included the DIG, Superintendent of Police and circle officers, the Bench noted that most of them were local police officers.

As the Bench asked if there was any request by the state to hand this over to the CBI, Salve said, “It’s entirely in your Lordship’s hand. The state has not made such a request. Please have this on reopening (after Dussehra). If you are not satisfied with progress… hand it over to the CBI.”

However, the top court was not very receptive to the idea of ​​handing over the probe to the CBI.

“Mr Salve, we have respect for you. We hope the state will take necessary steps due to the sensitivity of the issue. We are not making any comments. The CBI is not a solution for reasons known to you…because of the persons. …better some other persons look into it,” the CJI said.

Earlier, Salve told the Bench that the post-mortem report did not show any bullet wounds and that’s why Section 160 of the CrPC notice was sent.

“But the manner in which the car was driven, if the reason are true, there is a 302 (murder) case,” Salve said.

The CJI said, “This is the opinion of the bench…this is a responsible state government and police… when there’s a serious allegation of death or gunshot injury…will the accused in this country be treated the same way?

As Salve said the post-mortem did not show gunshot injury, the Bench shot back, “So this is a ground for not taking custody of the accused.”

“They have found two cartridges, maybe he had a bad aim and he missed it,” Salve responded.

The Bench took strong exception to certain reports by a TV news channel which allegedly said the CJI had met a victim’s family.

“We are sorry to see how the media is exceeding freedom of speech and expression. The CJI is gracious enough to let this go, other proceedings could take place,” Justice Surya Kant said.

“We all have been victim of such tweets…. It’s so absurd. This deserves to be treated with contempt,” Salve commented.

“It’s so absurd…I am in the court here… how can I go to Lucknow?” the CJI wondered.

Justice Kohli said, “We respect freedom of the media but this is not the way to cross the limit.”

Acting on a letter written by advocates Shiv Kumar Tripathi and CS Panda, the top court had on Thursday ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to file a status report in 24 hours on action taken by it, including arrest of accused named in FIRs for murder, with regard to Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which eight people, including four farmers, were killed on Sunday.

Tering the incident as “extremely unfortunate” it had also asked the state government to provide immediate medical treatment to the mother of deceased Lovepreet Singh who was in a critical condition.

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