New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday took a critical stand while hearing the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case and questioned the Uttar Pradesh government for listing fewer witnesses as compared to the number of people present at the site of the incident.
“There were hundreds of farmers in the rally, and there are only 23 eyewitnesses?” asked the apex court on Tuesday. “There was a crowd of 4000-5000 people who are all local people and even post-incident most of them have been agitating. That’s what has been reported and identification of these people should not be a problem then,” a Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli observed.
The observation came after senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government told the Supreme Court that out of 68 witnesses, statements of 30 witnesses were recorded under and 23 persons had claimed to be eyewitnesses of the incident.
Protection to Eyewitnesses
The apex court directed the state government to grant protection to the witnesses of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case in which eight people including four farmers were killed during a farmers’ protest.
Chief justice NV Ramana asked the Uttar Pradesh government, represented by senior advocates Harish Salve and Garima Prasad, to record the statements of other relevant witnesses before judicial magistrates under section 164 of the CrPC.
“We direct the District judge concerned to entrust the task of recording of evidence under section 164 of the CrPC to the nearest judicial magistrates available,” said the bench which also comprised justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.
The bench asked Salve to convey its concerns to forensic labs and experts on preparation of reports on electronic evidence of the incident.
The top court, meanwhile, asked the state government to file its report on two complaints including the one related to the lynching of a journalist. “The state is directed to file separate replies in the cases,” the bench said and fixed the plea for further hearing on November 8.
Observing that the probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence should not be an “unending story”, the Supreme Court on October 20 had rapped the government, saying the court was getting the impression that the state police was dragging its feet, and also ordered the protection of witnesses.
A total of eight people including four farmers were killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that took place on October 3.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)