The court directed the DGP of the state to ensure that all the evidence is protected and preserved
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government and expressed its “dissatisfactions” with the composition of the Special Investigating Team (SIT) set up to investigate Lakhimpur Kheri killings of farmers and its soft paddling and accommodating approach towards Ashish Mishra -- son of minister of state for home Ajay Mishra at the Centre -- while asking him to appear before it for questioning on his alleged involvement in the incident.
Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, heading a bench also comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli, said, “We expect responsible government and police” and mocked the way the SIT was telling Ashish Mishra to “Please come and tell us…” and give him more time till Saturday to appear before it after he did not appear in the first instance.
“When there is a serious allegation of death or gunshot injury, will other accused in this country be treated the same way?" the court asked senior lawyer Harish Salve who was appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government.
The hearing witnessed the court making it clear that the present SIT is unsatisfactory and has to go, but handing over the matter to CBI did not find favour with it, with Mr Salve summing up the mood of the court saying, “Pudding (SIT) has to be remade to make it palatable.”
The court directed the DGP of the state to ensure that all the evidence is protected and preserved.
“They should be told they don’t destroy evidence or do anything negative. Communicate it to them,” CJI told Mr Salve who in turn assured that he will personally communicate it. He also addressed the court's concerns over attempts to whitewash the whole incident.
Mr Salve’s reference to the pudding was in pursuance to Justice Kohli’s observation that the “taste of the pudding was in eating”. Justice
Kohli said this apparently suggesting that Mr Salve, appearing for the UP government, may describe the incident as “extremely serious” but it has not been dealt with in any seriousness.
The court asked, “What is the message we (state government) are sending?”
The court also took exception to the composition of SIT comprising DIG, SP, circle officers of Uttar Pradesh police saying that it was not surprising the way it was acting against the accused as it is packed with local people.
“All are local people. This is what happens when local people are there,” CJI Ramana said, taking a dim view of the composition of the SIT.
The court also brushed aside the suggestion to handover the investigation to CBI, with CJI Ramana without completing the sentence saying, “CBI is not a solution for the reasons known to you... because of the person… Better find other ways”.
Reverting to the way SIT was calling Ashish Mishra for questioning, the court wondered aloud, “What is the message we (state government) are sending?” Mr Salve, obviously trying to salvage the situation, said, “I agree the accused should have been arrested... I have been assured that between today and tomorrow whatever is required to be done will be done and if the accused (Ashish Mishra) does not appear before the SIT tomorrow at 11.00 AM, action will be taken.”
The strong observation by the top court pulling up the Uttar Pradesh government and the way SIT was going about its probe came in the course of the hearing of a PIL by two lawyers -- Shiv Kumar Tripathi and C.S. Panda -- seeking direction for the registration of FIR, judicial probe under the supervision of the top court and assisted by the CBI.
The two lawyers had written a letter to CJI Ramana which was treated as a PIL.
Allowing a week’s time to the Uttar Pradesh government to make amends, the court directed the posting of the matter on October 20, and will be taken up by the bench headed by Chief Justice Ramana as a first item.