A court in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday added stringent sections of the Indian Penal Code and Arms Act, including attempt to murder, to the First Information Report (FIR) against 13 people accused of mowing down farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in October.
The decision of the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) in Lakhimpur Kheri came a day after the special investigation team (SIT) looking into the October 3 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, where eight people were killed, told the court that incident was “well planned” and “deliberate”.
The addition of charges triggered a political row, with the Opposition looking to corner the BJP government over the involvement of Union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra in the case.
“According to the prosecution, the ongoing investigation and evidences collected in the FIR so far had established that October 3 violence leading to death of five people and injuries to several others was not an act of negligence or carelessness but an act of premeditated planning, hence charges under sections 279 (rash driving), 338 (causing grievous injuries by negligence) and 304 A (causing death due to negligence) as in the FIR did not stand,” said senior prosecution officer (SPO) SP Yadav
The prosecution urged the court to drop these sections and add sections 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (voluntarily causing injuries by dangerous weapons), 34 (acts by several persons with common intentions) and sections 3/25/30 of the Arms Act, Yadav added.
The matter was heard in the court of chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Chinta Ram. All 13 accused, including Ashish Mishra, were produced in court.
Four farmers and a journalist died when an SUV owned by Ajay Mishra ran over farmers from behind in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3. In the ensuing violence, three more people — two of whom were Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and one was the driver of the car — were killed. In court, defence counsels Awadhesh Singh and Chandra Mohan Singh opposed the imposition of stringent sections. Awadhesh Singh said they objected to the sections 149 (unlawful assembly) and 34 against the accused.
However, Yadav said section 34 was a rule of evidence while 149 was a penal section, and as such both sections could be promulgated simultaneously.
Ajay Mishra visited his son at the Lakhimpur district jail on Tuesday. “I just went to meet my son. Can’t discuss in open what we talked about,” he said.
Legal experts said the addition of new sections will make it difficult for them to get bail. “Apart from the existing bail application, the accused will now have to seek bail on the additional charges that have been added. This will further delay the possibility of them getting bail,” said Lucknow-based senior advocate Abhimanyu Singh.
Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav, said the farmers will never forget the incident: “The farmers will never forget the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. First, this government introduced three black farm laws, then insulted the agitating farmers. Over 700 farmers lost their lives in the agitation. And then looking at the elections in UP and Punjab, the government withdrew the black laws. So many farmers would have not lost their lives had this government listened to us and farmers. BJP people mowed down farmers by SUVs.”
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra demanded that Ajay Mishra should be sacked with immediate effect.
“The Minister of State for Home should be sacked from the Union Cabinet and his role in the Lakhimpur farmer massacre should be investigated,” she said in a statement.