The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted eight-week interim bail to Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra's son Ashish in the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence which claimed eight lives.
A bench of Justices Surya Kant and J K Maheshwari directed that Ashish shall not stay in Uttar Pradesh or Delhi during the interim bail period.
"The petitioner is directed to be released on interim bail, initially for a period of eight weeks subject to furnishing bail bond to the satisfaction of the trial court," the bench said.
"With a view to ward of any direct or indirect influence on the material witnesses, who are yet to depose, the petitioner is directed to leave the state of Uttar Pradesh within one week from the date of his release on interim bail," it said.
The apex court said Ashish shall surrender his passport to the trial court and not enter Uttar Pradesh except to attend the trial proceedings.
"Any attempt by the petitioner or his family or supporters to influence or threaten the witnesses, directly or indirectly, shall entail cancellation of the interim bail," the top court said.
It said Ashish shall disclose the place of his residence to the trial court as well as the jurisdictional police station where he would stay during the period of interim bail within one week of his release.
The bench said he shall mark his presence in the jurisdictional police station once in a week.
The bench also ordered that four persons, accused in a separate case lodged over the killing of three occupants of the SUV which allegedly mowed down farmers, be released on interim bail till further orders subject to furnishing bail bonds to the satisfaction of the trial court.
It observed that there are two separate FIRs with different narratives regarding the incident and the question as to who are the aggressor or responsible for the "unfortunately ghastly incident" would be ascertained only after a full-fledged trial.
It directed the trial court to prioritise the deposition of the protected witnesses, followed by other crucial witnesses.
The bench directed that the accused and their lawyers would extend full cooperation to the trial court during the trial proceedings.
It also directed the trial court to send progress report to the apex court along with details of witnesses examined on each date.
The bench has posted the matter for further directions on March 14.
On October 3, 2021, eight people were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri district's Tikunia where violence erupted when farmers were protesting against the then deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit to the area.
According to the Uttar Pradesh Police FIR in the case, four farmers were mowed down by an SUV in which Ashish was seated.
Following the incident, the driver of the SUV and two BJP workers were allegedly lynched by angry farmers. A journalist also died in the violence.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had on July 26 last year rejected Ashish Mishra's bail plea.
He had challenged the high court's order in the apex court.
On December 6 last year, the trial court had framed charges against Ashish Mishra and 12 others for the alleged offences of murder, criminal conspiracy and other penal laws in the case of death of the four protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, paving the way for the start of the trial.
A total of 13 accused, including Ashish Mishra, have been charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 147 and 148 related to rioting, 149 (unlawful assembly), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 427 (mischief) and 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy), and section 177 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
The other 12 jailed accused are Ankit Das, Nandan Singh Bisht, Latif Kale, Satyam alias Satya Prakash Tripathi, Shekhar Bharti, Sumit Jaiswal, Ashish Pandey, Lavkush Rana, Shishu Pal, Ullas Kumar alias Mohit Trivedi, Rinku Rana and Dharmendra Banjara.
(With PTI inputs)