Bail granted to Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra, who is accused of murdering farmers in Uttar Pradesh last year, was cancelled by the Supreme Court today. He has been ordered to surrender in a week.
Ashish Mishra was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on February 10, in the middle of the campaign for the Uttar Pradesh election. His father Ajay Mishra, the Union Minister of State for Home and a powerful BJP leader in Uttar Pradesh, started his election campaign soon after.
The reprieve to Ashish Mishra was challenged by the families of farmers who were killed on October 3 at Lakhimpur Kheri in UP.
The High Court order is based on “irrelevant observations” and “overlooked relevant considerations”, the Supreme Court ruled.
“The victim has unbridled participatory right in such a criminal trial process,” Justice Surya Kant said in sharp words while announcing the decision.
“We hold that the victims have been denied the chance of effective hearing. The denial of victims to be heard and the tearing hurry shown by the High Court merits the setting aside of the bail order,” the judge said.
When asked to direct a different High Court judge to hear the case, the Supreme Court said it would not be proper to pass such an order. “We are sure that the same judge would not want to hear the matter again,” said the judges.
Ashish Mishra is accused of running over four farmers and a journalist during a protest at Lakhimpur Kheri against three controversial farm laws. He was arrested several days later, amid outrage over the UP police and administration’s slow response.
In a petition before the Supreme Court, the farmers’ families said Ashish Mishra’s bail must be cancelled as he is a threat to witnesses. A witness was attacked in March and attackers had issued threats citing the BJP’s victory in the recent UP election, they alleged.
But the UP government displayed a two-way stand, calling it a “grave offence” yet asserting that Ashish Mishra is “not a flight risk”.
“The offence is grave. Whether or not crime was with deliberate intent can only be examined at trial stage. Intention of offence is a nuanced matter, can be discussed only at trial stage,” said the state’s lawyer, Mahesh Jethmalani.
The Yogi Adityanath government also argued that witnesses had been provided security so there could really be “no tampering”.
UP also told the court that Ashish Mishra is not a repeat offender. “If he had been a repeat offender bail should not be granted,” said the state government.
Granting bail to Ashish Mishra, the High Court had raised questions about some of the charges listed in the FIR (First Information Report) by the police, including firing at protesters.
“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case in toto, it is evident that as per the FIR, the role of firing was assigned to the applicant (Ashish Mishra) for killing the protesters, but during the course of investigation, no such firearm injuries were found either on the body of any of the deceased or on the body of any injured person,” the court had said.
The Supreme Court, however, said an FIR “cannot be treated as an encyclopaedia of events”.
Eight people died in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3. After five persons were crushed by the Union Minister’s convoy, three more, including BJP workers, were killed in violence that broke out later.