The Allahabad High Court has granted bail to Ashish Mishra ‘Monu’, son of the Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’, who will soon walk out of the jail – just four months after his arrest. The order has sparked a political row amid ongoing election process in the state, writes Mudit Mathur
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has granted bail to Ashish Mishra ‘Monu’, son of the Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’, who will soon walk out of the jail – just four months after his arrest. His release was delayed by couple of days due to inconsistency in mentioning offences under which he was chargesheeted but now the High Court has corrected its earlier orders – paving the way of his smooth release. Now, the Court has added charges of conspiracy and murder in its orders granting him bail for these offences also. The order has invoked controversy in political circles during the ongoing election process in the state, where the ruling BJP is seeking a second term in the office. Farmers’ organisations, who are making it a poll issue, may challenge the bail order.
The politics of the state once again boiled up over his bail at a time when farmers were demanding ouster of his father from Modi’s cabinet. The High Court decision may be a big respite for some BJP leaders just before the fourth phase poll date, but it could further diminish the chances of any possible support in the farmers-dominated constituencies of rural areas. The vibrations of political ramifications could also influence Punjab elections where non-removal of MoS Teni was a hotly debated poll issue.
It may be recalled that eight persons had lost life in the most atrocious incident of mowing down the protesting farmers killing four of them and a journalist in brutal attack from the behind in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3rd, 2021. Three BJP workers too were killed in retaliatory violent clashes while their vehicle overturned soon after it lost control into a nearby trench a few meters away from the crime scene. The farmers were protesting against the Union MoS for Home Ajay Mishra Teni and also Deputy CM Keshav Maurya who was on Kheri visit on the fateful day.
The Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh granted him bail on 10th February in F.I.R. No. 219 of 2021, under Sections 147, 148, 149, 307, 326, 427/34 I.P.C., Section 30 of Arms Act and Section 177 of M.V. Act, Police Station Tikuniya, District Lakhimpur Kheri, pointing out the discrepancies in the case against him. The main ground of allowing bail was based on post-mortem reports wherein no gunshot injuries were found on the bodies of the deceased farmers.
However, the High Court failed to examine the fact that the CJM took the cognizance of the chargesheet and committed the case for session trial in accordance with law under Section 34, 302, 307, 326 and 120-B of IPC after investigations. The eyewitness account and video footage of a nearby petrol pump followed with testimonies of 99 witnesses were recorded under section 164 CrPC before the court, and all of them have professedly pointed out presence and involvement Ashish Mishra at the spot. Testimonies of witnesses were verified through investigation at the spot.
The SIT probing the Lakhimpur Kheri violence had filed a 5,000-page chargesheet against 14 accused, including Union minister Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish and brother-in-law Virendra Shukla for destroying evidence of crime but so far it has not included the name of the Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni for conspiracy nor questioned him. The SIT is still investigating and gathering credible evidences against him.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “A Prime Minister has a moral responsibility towards the nation and it is his dharma to fulfil this responsibility. This dharma is above every dharma. Whichever politician, Prime Minister or government fails to do this, must be ignored.”
Addressing a rally in Bilaspur area of Rampur district, she said “Today, that man has got bail and soon, he would be roaming around openly, the man who mowed you down. But whom did the government save? Did it save the farmers? Where were the police and the administration when farmers were killed?” The Congress leader alleged nowhere police acted after Lakhimpur Kheri incident. However, they were present to prevent the Congress members who tried to visit the victims’ families soon after the incident, she added.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, “Beware of the politics of oppression, His protectionists are coming out… from custody. On the issue of grant of bail to Ashish Mishra Monu, Akhilesh said, “When the issue would reach before the Supreme Court, the farmers will get justice. Whosoever had done wrong would be punished.”
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on her twitter handle, questioned, “How Ashish Mishra qualified for bail? Three basic principles of bail are that accused should not be able to: 1. Intimidate witnesses; 2. Destroy evidence and 3. Be flight risk. How does Ashish Mishra satisfy bail condition 1? Sitting minister’s son, arrested only after 3 days, in election season?”
Sukhwinder Singh, father of 19-year-old Gurvinder Singh who was mowed down by Ashish Mishra’s car on October 3 last year, said, “His getting bail so soon is not a good sign.” “We did not have any hopes earlier with this government. We don’t have any hope now because Ajay Mishra Teni is still not removed,” he added.
Reacting to the High Court orders, the brother of slayed journalist Raman Kashyap, Aman Kashyap, said, “A bail to an accused is not equivalent to an acquittal. We shall continue to fight… just because he has got bail does not mean the case has ended.” “These people are in power in the state and Centre. That’s why this has happened. But the people will suitably reply them. It appears that they felt that if the government changes, they will not be able to do what they could do now,” he added.
The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana had expressed strong displeasure over “intermixing” of evidence by UP investigators probing the cross cases involving the massacre of farmers allegedly overrun by a convoy of three vehicles from behind, including one owned by Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra. The collection of evidence in the FIR related to the death of farmers has to be an “independent exercise.” Justice Surya Kant had supplemented.
Examining the status report of SIT probe, the bench found that evidence of some of the witnesses in the case relating to the death of the driver and the two BJP workers were overlapping with the case related to the death of four farmers. It raised doubts whether this was being done to benefit a “particular accused.”
The Supreme Court directed the SIT to complete its probe soon. It also added three Indian Police Service officers to the team– those who are not from Uttar Pradesh, though they are allocated to the UP cadre. This was done over concerns that local policemen would manipulate the probe. The apex court too had intervened to ensure fair investigation of cases under judicial supervision of a judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court.
HIGH COURT ORDER
A Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court on February 10, granted bail to Ashish Mishra alias Monu, the son of junior Union home minister Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’, in connection with the death of four farmers who were crushed under the car which allegedly belonging to him, in October last.
The court directed his release on furnishing a personal bond and two reliable sureties each of the like amount to the satisfaction of the court concerned. It also imposed certain conditions on Ashish stating that he would not influence the witnesses or tamper with the evidence of the case or otherwise misuse the liberty of bail.
Delivering the order, Justice Rajeev Singh observed, “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 Ashish for killing the protesters but in probe, no firearm injuries were found on the body of any of the deceased or on the body of any injured person.”
“The prosecution alleged that Ashish provoked the driver of the vehicle for crushing the protesters, however, the driver and two others in the vehicle, had been killed by the protesters. It is further evident that during the investigation, a notice was issued to Ashish and he appeared before the investigating officer. It is also evident that the chargesheet has already been filed. In such circumstances, this court is of the view that Ashish is entitled to be released on bail,” Justice Singh held.
The court also expressed concern on protests by farmers without permission of the local administration and directed the chief secretary to issue necessary directions and guidelines for regulating such types of assemblies and processions to avoid the inconvenience caused to citizens.
The court also pulled up the district administration for its slackness, saying “…some persons, for their political benefits, call innocent persons, without due permission under law. In the present case, though the order under Section 144 CrPC was operating, thousands of persons from different districts, even from other states, had gathered, which was very well within the knowledge of the district administration, as is evident from the statement of its officials, but neither any preventive action was taken nor any action against the organizers had been taken.”
Allowing the bail plea of Ashish, the bench said, “In case, the story of the prosecution is accepted, thousands of protesters had gathered at the place of incident and there might be a possibility that the driver tried to speed up the vehicle to save himself, on account of which, the incident had taken place.”