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BREAKING| Supreme Court Sets Aside Bail Granted To Ashish Mishra In Lakhmipur Kheri Case; Asks Him To Surrender

Srishti Ojha
18 April 2022 5:16 AM GMT
BREAKING| Supreme Court Sets Aside Bail Granted To Ashish Mishra In Lakhmipur Kheri Case; Asks Him To Surrender
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The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the Allahabad High Court order granting bail granted to Ashish Mishra, son on Union Minister Ajay Mishra, in the Lakhimpur Kheri case.Holding that the High Court passed the order taking into account irrelevant considerations and denying the right of hearing to the victim, the Court set aside the bail order and asked Mishra to surrender within a...

The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the Allahabad High Court order granting bail granted to Ashish Mishra, son on Union Minister Ajay Mishra, in the Lakhimpur Kheri case.

Holding that the High Court passed the order taking into account irrelevant considerations and denying the right of hearing to the victim, the Court set aside the bail order and asked Mishra to surrender within a week.

The bail application has been remanded back to the High Court for fresh decision on merits after taking note of relevant considerations and after affording right of hearing to the victim.

"Instead of looking into aspects such as the nature and gravity of the offence; severity of the punishment in the event of conviction; circumstances which are peculiar to the accused or victims; likelihood of the accused fleeing; likelihood of tampering with the evidence and witnesses and the impact that his release may have on the trial and the society at large; the High Court has adopted a myopic view of the evidence on the record and proceeded to decide the case on merits", the judgment authored by Justice Surya Kant observed.

"We are, thus, of the view that this Court on account of the factors like (i) irrelevant considerations having impacted the impugned order granting bail; (ii) the High Court exceeding its jurisdiction by touching upon the merits of the case; (iii) denial of victims' right to participate in the proceedings; and (iv) the tearing hurry shown by the High Court in entertaining or granting bail to the respondent/accused; can rightfully cancel the bail, without depriving the respondent-accused of his legitimiate right to seek enlargement on bail on relevant considerations",the judgment added.

The bench observed that the victims have an unbridled right to participate in all proceedings, including bail hearings. The Top Court also criticized the High Court for entering into factual merits, which are the subject of the trial.

After the order was pronounced, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the victims, made a request that the Chief Justice of the High Court be requested to assign another bench to consider the matter. The Bench said that it is not necessary for it to observe anything in that regard and left the matter to the Chief Justice of the High Court.

A bench comprising the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli issued the direction in a special leave petition filed by the family members of the farmers who got killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence challenging the February 10 order of the Allahabad High Court granting bail to accused Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni.

The court had reserved its orders on April 4th 2022, while asking if the Allahabad High Court could have gone into the merits of the matter while deciding the bail application.

The bench had also told the State of Uttar Pradesh that it ought to have filed an appeal against the bail order as recommended by the judge monitoring the Special Investigation Team.

The State, while saying that the offence was grave, had added that Mishra was not a flight risk and that the witnesses have been given adequate protection.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave and Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the petitioners. Senior Advocates Mahesh Jethmalani and Ranjit Kumar represented the State of UP and Ashish Mishra respectively.

It was submitted on behalf of the petitioners, that the High Court went into irrelevant considerations, ignored relevant considerations and that the impugned order suffered from total non-application of mind. It was submitted that the Union Minister Ajay Mishra in a public speech had threatened the protesting farmers a week ago. On the day of crime, the District Magistrate had changed the route of the VIP convoy due to the presence of protesters and despite that the accused went in the same route knowing fully that it was changed by the DM.

It was submitted on behalf of the accused Mishra that Mishra was at a different venue over 2 kilometers away from the crime spot at the time of the incident and some crucial facts were omitted in the translation of the chargesheet submitted by the petitioner.

It was submitted that as per the counter-case, the driver of the vehicle had received brutal injuries and the vehicle was also subjected to attacks and it could be possible that he lost control and drove through the crowd.

On March 15, the Supreme Court had issued notice on the special leave petition. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, the counsel for the petitioners, had submitted before a bench led by the Chief Justice of India that one of witnesses in the case was attacked on the day of the UP election results after the victory of the BJP in the assembly polls.

The Bench had then asked the State of UP to see that the witnesses are protected.

The State of Uttar Pradesh through its affidavit has told the Supreme Court that the decision regarding challenging the bail granted to Ashish Mishra in the Lakhmipur Kheri case is "pending consideration before the relevant authorities".

The State refuted the allegation that it did not effectively oppose his bail before the High Court. The State has submitted that in accordance with Supreme Court's orders in the Lakhimpur Kheri case, the families of all the victims and all the witnesses whose Section 164 statements were recorded, have been receiving continuous security under the Witness Protection Scheme 2018.

The State also said that the attack of witness, which occurred on March 10, was not related to Lakhmipur Kheri case and was the result of an altercation related to throwing of colours during Holi celebrations.

Bail Order:

In the bail order, the High Court had observed that it is possible that the driver of the offending vehicle must have tried to speed up to protect himself from the protesters.

"..in case, the story of the prosecution is accepted, thousands of protesters gathered at the place of incident and there might be a possibility that the driver tried to speed up the vehicle to save himself, on account of which, the incident had taken place", the Court had observed.

The Court, in its order, observed that primarily, only two allegations had been leveled against Mishra - firstly, of causing firearm injury to the deceased person and secondly – of provoking his driver to crush the protesters.

Regarding the first allegation, the Court observed that no firearm injury had been found on the body of the deceased or any other person, except the injury of the hitting from the vehicle.

Further, on the question of hitting the protestors, the Court opined thus:

" …in case, the story of the prosecution is accepted, thousands of protesters gathered at the place of incident and there might be a possibility that the driver tried to speed up the vehicle to save himself, on account of which, the incident had taken place."

Background

The crime took place on October 3, when several farmers were holding protests against the visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya to Lakhimpur Kheri district, and four protesting farmers were killed after they were mowed down by an SUV which was part of the convoy of Ashish Mishra.

The Supreme Court in November 2021 appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the investigation in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

This order came from the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, which is hearing a PIL registered on the basis of a letter petition sent by two lawyers seeking an impartial probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence of October 3.

The UP Police arrested Mishra following the critical remarks by the Supreme Court.

Case Details: Jagjeet Singh & Ors vs Ashish Mishra Alias Monu & Anr, In Re Violence In Lakhimpur Kheri(UP) Leading To Loss Of Life

Click here to read/download the order

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