New Delhi: Determined on an impartial, fair and just investigation into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, the Supreme Court Wednesday appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the probe by Uttar Pradesh SIT which will also get three IPS officers who are not the natives of the state.
Observing that while investigating such offences, justice must not only be done, but also be seen and perceived to be done, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana ordered reconstitution of the SIT and ordered the induction IPS officers — S B Shiradkar, Padmaja Chauhan and Preetinder Singh.
Shiradkar, an IPS officer of 1993 batch from Maharashtra and presently serving as ADG Intelligence in Uttar Pradesh, will head the SIT, the apex court said in its order.
We thus deem it appropriate to reconstitute the SIT hereinafter to preserve the faith and trust of people in the Criminal Administration of the Justice System. Further, to assure full and complete justice to the victims of crime, we are inclined to order that the ongoing investigation be monitored by a retired High Court Judge, who too may not have his roots in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
We, therefore, appoint Justice (Retd.) Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the ongoing investigation so as to ensure transparency, fairness and absolute impartiality in the outcome of the investigation in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident which is to be conducted in a time-bound manner, said the bench which also comprised justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli,
Stressing on the need of a fair and just probe, the top court said that given the nascent stage of the investigation, it was reluctant to make any observation on the merits of the case as that would have an impact on the parties involved and influence the prosecuting agency as well as the courts which would ultimately look into the case.
This Court is equally concerned about guaranteeing an impartial, fair, just and thorough investigation into the incident which has resulted in such a tragic loss of lives of protesters as well as some other persons, it said while proposing to appoint the former Judge to monitor the probe and inducting new members in the SIT to conduct the investigation uninfluenced by any consideration.
The UP government consented to the proposal leading to the appointment of the former judge and the reconstitution of the SIT which has been asked to make all efforts to conclude the investigation expeditiously and file the charge sheet.
The State of Uttar Pradesh is directed to provide all perks, facilities, emoluments, secretarial assistance and any other related requirements equivalent to the post of a sitting High Court Judge (minus the pension) to the learned Monitoring Judge. Post the matter for hearing on receipt of a Status Report from the Monitoring Judge, after the charge sheet is filed, the bench ordered.
The top court, which had expressed disapproval on the slow pace, manner and outcome of the investigation conducted so far, took note of the fact that the present SIT predominantly comprised middle level/subordinate level police officers posted in district Lakhimpur Kheri and ordered reconstitution.
It appears to us that in spite of their perceived commitment and sincerity in carrying out the investigation, there may still be a lurking suspicion in respect of the fairness and independence of such an investigation.
“We, therefore, deem it appropriate to direct reconstitution of the SIT infused with directly recruited IPS officers who do not hail from the State of UP though are allocated to UP Cadre. It goes without saying that the SIT shall utilise the latest forensic investigative methods to reach the truth, the order said.
The newly constituted SIT shall be free to seek assistance or include local officers for taking the ongoing investigation to its logical conclusion under the continuous monitoring of Justice Jain, it said.
The CJI had said earlier in the day that the bench had decided to appoint Justice Jain to supervise on a day-to-day basis the Uttar Pradesh SIT’s probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which eight people including four farmers were killed on October 3.
The CJI had said that the detailed order will be passed later in the day.
Now we have verified and contacted the concerned judge we had thought of. This is Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and he will monitor the ongoing investigation so as to ensure transparency and fairness, the bench said.
The UP government on November 15 had agreed to the apex court’s suggestion that a former judge of its choice may be appointed to supervise the state SIT’s probe.
Prior to this, the apex court had said it had no confidence and did not want the one-member judicial commission appointed by the UP government to continue the probe into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case.
Retired Allahabad High Court judge Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava was named by the state government earlier to enquire into the eruption of violence on Tikonia-Banbirpur road in Lakhimpur Kheri district.
We are inclined to appoint a former judge of a different high court to monitor the investigation on a day-to-day basis and then see how the separate charge sheets are eventually prepared, the bench had said.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Surya Kant had suggested the names of justices Ranjit Singh and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, both former judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and said that they are experienced in the field of criminal law and would oversee the probe of the SIT till filing of the charge sheets in the cases.
The police have so far arrested 13 accused, including Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, in connection with the case.
The apex court was hearing the matter of the October 3 violence in Lakhimpur Kheri in which eight persons including four farmers were killed during a farmers’ protest.
Four farmers were mowed down by an SUV in the convoy at Lakhimpur Kheri when a group agitating against the Centre’s three new farm laws was holding a demonstration against the visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on October 3.
Two BJP workers and a driver were beaten to death allegedly by the angry protesters, and a local journalist was killed in the violence.