The Supreme Court has pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for delay in recording statements of witnesses before a judicial magistrate in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case, where eight persons were killed, and also told the state government to dispel the impression that it is dragging its feet in the matter.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli told the Uttar Pradesh government counsel, “You are dragging your feet. Please dispel that impression”.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, submitted that a report on the incident has been filed in a sealed cover.
The bench replied, “No, that was not required and we have just received it now…we waited till 1 a.m. last night for any filing. But we received nothing”.
Justice Kant added that the court never said anything about the sealed cover. Salve informed the bench that four out of 44 witnesses in the matter have recorded their statements under section 164 (before a judicial magistrate), and 10 accused have been arrested so far.
Salve said there are two crimes: one where the car was driven into farmers and the other one was in connection with the lynching.
The bench shot back at the Uttar Pradesh government counsel, “Why haven’t other witnesses recorded their statements?”
Salve replied that it is going on and added that out of the 10 accused, four were in police custody.
The bench queried what happened to the other six accused. It added, “You did not seek custody so they were sent to judicial custody. What is the situation in this case?”
Salve submitted that the statements of other witnesses were being recorded, but the courts were shut.
The bench queried further, “Criminal courts closed for Dussehra vacation?”
The chief justice observed, “This should not be an unending story, this is all we want”.
Salve sought time in the matter. After hearing arguments, the bench posted the matter for further hearing on October 26.
The top court had registered a petition on the basis of a letter by two lawyers seeking a probe by the CBI in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.