New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed former judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court, Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, to monitor the ongoing investigation in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case. It also reconstituted the Special Investigation Team (SIT) by appointing three more senior police officers.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said that the Justice Jain Commission “will ensure impartiality and independence of the investigation.” The bench also comprising of Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli said, “The investigation will be continued by the SIT,” adding the matter will be listed for hearing again after the chargesheet is filed on the basis of status report.
Three Indian Police Service (IPS) officers have also been inducted into the special investigation team (SIT). The Supreme Court will hear the case after the charge sheet is filed and a report is received from justice Jain.
The appointment comes two days after the Uttar Pradesh government agreed to appoint a former high court judge to monitor the probe where eight people, including four farmers, were killed in violence during a farmers’ protest in Lakhimpur Kheri in October. Thirteen people, including Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, have been arrested so far in connection with the case. Ashish has been named as the prime accused and was arrested on October 9. On Monday, the Lakhimpur Kheri district and sessions court rejected the bail pleas of Ashish Mishra and two others—Ashish Pandey and Lavkush Rana.
Meanwhile, minister Ajay Kumar Mishra has repeatedly alleged that his son is innocent and that he has evidence to prove he was not involved in the violence.
Notably, Justice Jain enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana in May 1982 and started his legal practice at the district court of Hisar. He was elevated as a judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court on December 5, 2007, and retired on September 30, 2020.
Earlier, the apex court had expressed dissatisfaction over what it said is the “mixing up” of investigation in the cases pertaining to the October 3 incident. “To ensure that evidence…are recorded independently and there is no overlapping and there is no intermixing of the evidences, we are trying to appoint a retired judge from a different High Court to monitor the investigation on day-to-day basis…We are not confident…We don’t want judicial commission appointed by your state to continue…” the CJI had said.
“What it appears to us is that this SIT (Special Investigation Team) somehow or the other is unable to maintain investigative distance between the cases,” said Justice Surya Kant, who is part of a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana.
He added, “To ensure that evidence…are recorded independently and there is no overlapping and there is no intermixing of the evidences, we are trying to appoint a retired judge from a different High Court to monitor the investigation on day-to-day basis…We are not confident…We don’t want judicial commission appointed by your state to continue…”.
Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the UP government, agreed to the bench’s suggestion and stated that it may appoint a judge from any state. The bench further noted, “The other concern is you have to upgrade the task force, they have to be higher officers. “Most officers are in the grade of Sub Inspectors from the Lakhmipur Kheri region,” Justice Surya Kant said.