NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court's suo motu hearing into Lakhimpur killings on Friday did not take off even as Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, heading a 3-judge Bench, adjourned the case to October 20, stressing that "we are not satisfied with the steps taken by the UP Government" as to why Ashish Mishra, son of a union minister, was not arrested despite the murder charge in the FIR.
On Thursday also, the case could not proceed as the Bench had sought a status report from UP government which was furnished on Friday but said very little.
With that, the State government has gained time since Friday was the last day of the court's sitting; it goes on a Dussehra holiday whole of the next week and after a sitting on October 18, there is a holiday on October 19 on account of Id-e-Milad.
Ashish was issued fresh summons by the police on Friday and dutifully another notice was pasted at his house seeking his appearance on Saturday at 11 AM.
In a brief order on behalf of the Bench, the CJI said: "We are not satisfied with the steps taken by the state. Senior advocate Salve has assured steps will be taken by next date to satisfy this court and alternatives will be considered to entrust the investigation to another agency.’’
Salve has also promised that he will communicate to the highest police functionary in the state to take steps to protect evidence and other materials.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who took over the arguments from UP's additional advocate general Garima Prasad, submitted that Ashish has been given notice to show up at 11 AM on Saturday. The submission angered the CJI: "Is it the same way we treat other accused too, like sending notices, etc.?"
On the CJI enquiring if there was any request by the state to hand over the case to the CBI, Salve said it is up to the court. "If you are not satisfied with the progress, hand it over to the CBI." The CJI, however, quipped: "The CBI is not a solution for reasons known to you...because of the persons....it is better if some other person looks into it."
When Salve tried to justify that no action was taken against the "young man" since the post-mortem did not show gunshot injuries, the CJI flared up: "So this is a ground for not taking him in custody....The way the police is proceeding, it seems it is not serious." When Salve said the UP Government will issue a warrant if nothing happens, the CJI said: "If a 302 (murder) case is registered the accused should be apprehended immediately."
On Salve pleading that he will take up the matter on October 18 when the court reopens after holidays, assuring that "action is being taken at the highest level," the CJI said: "Action is only in words here." Justice Hima Kohli, in turn, said: "Proof of the pudding is in the eating." Justice Surya Kant said it's a brutal murder of 8 persons and the law must take its course against all accused.
When Salve tried to pacify the judges, promising that "between today and tomorrow, all shortfalls will be addressed," the CJI shot back "We have seen details of the SIT. You have a DIG Superintendent of police, Circle officers --- all these are local people on the SIT. The state's AAG said the DIG is from the police headquarters.’’