UP SC; decision to challenge- The New Indian Express

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By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Uttar Pradesh government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it had “vehemently opposed” the bail request of Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra, in connection with the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri which had left eight people, including four farmers, dead.

Refuting claims that it did not effectively oppose the bail application, the state government also argued that a decision to challenge the granting of bail by the Allahabad High Court at Ashish Mishra was pending review by the relevant authorities.

In its responding affidavit filed on the farmers’ family members’ appeal against the High Court order, the state government further said that investigations had shown that a key witness in the case , Diljot Singh, was reportedly beaten by disbelievers on March 10 due to a “sudden altercation” that erupted after they threw Holi colors at him.

The state government made the statement while denying FIR allegations filed by the witness that the attackers had threatened that now that the BJP had won the UP elections, they would “deal with him”.

Claiming the March 10 incident is ‘not related at all’ to the violence in Lakhimpur, he argued the attack is meant to be ‘confused and linked’ with the deaths of farmers in the town on October 3 2021.

The state government said the Allahabad High Court order along with its counter affidavit would show that it vehemently opposed Ashish Mishra’s bail application.

“The same clearly demonstrates that Defendant #1’s (Ashish Mishra) bail application was violently opposed by the State, and any assertions to the contrary in the SLP (filed by family members against the HC’s order) is completely wrong and deserves to be rejected,” he added.

The government further said that as the High Court order is dated 10 February 2022, the statute of limitations against it is still running and the decision to file a Special Leave (SLP) application is pending. review by competent authorities.

Giving details of the March 10 incident, the state government said that according to the petitioners’ case, a Diljot Singh, son of Jarnail Singh, was beaten by disbelievers on March 10.

“According to the FIR recorded by Diljot Singh, the attackers threatened him saying that Respondent No. I (Ashish Mishra) is out on bail and the ruling party also won the election and they will watch over him,” he added.

However, during the investigations, Diljot’s gunner, Manoj Singh, assigned to protect him as per the supreme court order, as well as 3 independent eyewitnesses to the incident were interviewed, and the 4 people testified that it happened suddenly due to an altercation between Diljot and the assailants for throwing Gulal (dry colors of Holi) on him, according to the affidavit.

Referring to witness statements under section 161 of the CrpC, the state government said that according to eyewitnesses, on March 10, at around 8:15 p.m., Diljot Singh walked towards the school primary school near Danga, on a tractor cart loaded with sugar cane.

“At that time, some people were playing with Holi Gulal near the school and also threw the Gulal at Diljot Singh. When Diljot Singh objected, an altercation broke out between him and the others, during which the one of the disbelievers hit him with a belt and others kicked and punched him.”

“Unlike the case presented in the FIR recorded by Diljot Singh, all witnesses ad idem (agreed) that none of the disbelievers mentioned either Ashish Mishra or the ruling party that won the election, and that the incident was following a sudden altercation over the dispute over Holi Gulal, and was unrelated to the incident on October 3, 2021.”

The state government said it should be noted that even the FIR itself does not mention the presence of Ashish Mishra or other defendants in the case at the scene.

He said all of the named defendants in the March 10 incident were arrested on March 11 and released on bail on March 14.

The state government has said that, in accordance with court orders, the families of all victims of the Lakhimpur violence and all witnesses, whose statements under Article 164 have been recorded, are provided with continued security under the 2018 witness protection program.

“Each witness has an armed police machine gunner. The families of the victims each have an armed machine gunner, as well as a permanent security guard and continuous surveillance through CCTV cameras installed, as well as barrier duty at their homes. A total of 98 people have been provided security, of which 79 are from Kheri district, 17 from outlying districts and 2 from Uttarakhand state,” he said.

On March 16, the highest court had asked for answers from the UP government and Ashish Mishra on a plea challenging the granting of bail.

He had also ordered the state government to provide witness protection after the lawyer, representing the farmers, referred to the attack on a key witness on March 10.

On October 3 last year, eight people were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri during violence that erupted when farmers were protesting Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya’s visit to the area.

Four farmers were mowed down by an SUV, following which the driver and two BJP employees were allegedly lynched by angry farmers.

A journalist also died in the violence that sparked outrage among opposition parties and farmers’ groups agitating against the Center’s now-repealed farm laws.

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