Ashish Mishra, a son of Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra, was given an eight-week interim release by the Supreme Court on Wednesday in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri riots of 2021, which lost eight lives.
Ashish was ordered by a panel of Justices Surya Kant and J. K. Maheshwari not to remain in Uttar Pradesh or Delhi for the duration of his provisional release.
The bench ruled that the petitioner was to be freed on interim bail, initially for a term of eight weeks, subject to providing a bail bond that satisfied the trial court.
It said, "The petitioner is advised to depart the state of Uttar Pradesh within one week from the date of his release on interim bail in order to ward off any direct or indirect influence on the crucial witnesses, who are still to testify."
Ashish must turn in his passport to the trial court, according to the supreme court, and he may only enter Uttar Pradesh to make court appearances.
The highest court said that any effort to intimidate or threaten the witnesses by the petitioner, his family, or supporters will result in the termination of the temporary release.
It said that within a week of being released, Ashish must reveal to the trial court and the local police station where he would be staying during the interim bail term where he resides.
He must sign in at the local police station once every week, the court said.
The bench additionally ordered the release on temporary bail of four people until further orders, subject to providing bail bonds that satisfied the trial court in a separate case filed over the deaths of three passengers of the SUV that allegedly ran over farmers.
It was noted that there are two independent FIRs with differing accounts of the occurrence, and the identity of the aggressor or party in charge of the "sadly horrible incident" would only be determined through a formal trial.
It instructed the trial court to depose the protected witnesses first, then other important witnesses.
The bench ruled that throughout the trial, the accused and their attorneys must fully cooperate with the trial court.
Additionally, it instructed the trial court to give an update to the supreme court with a list of the witnesses who were questioned on each day.
The issue has been put on hold by the bench until March 14.
On October 3, 2021, violence broke out in Tikunia, Lakhimpur Kheri district, when farmers protested the arrival of then-deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. Eight people were murdered as a result.
The Uttar Pradesh Police FIR in the case said that Ashish was driving an SUV that ran over four farmers.
Angering farmers are said to have lynched the SUV's driver and two BJP members after the event. Also lost in the bloodshed was a journalist.
On July 26 of last year, the Lucknow division of the Allahabad High Court denied Ashish Mishra's request for bail.
In the supreme court, he had contested the high court's ruling.
The trial was set to begin on December 6 of last year after Ashish Mishra and 12 others were charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, and other offenses in connection with the deaths of four farmers who were protesting in Lakhimpur Kheri.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 147 and 148, which deal with rioting, 149 (unlawful assembly), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 427 (mischief), 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy), and section 177 of the Motor Vehicle Act have all been used to charge a total of 13 defendants, including Ashish Mishra.
Ankit Das, Nandan Singh Bisht, Latif Kale, Satyam, also known as Satya Prakash Tripathi, Shekhar Bharti, Sumit Jaiswal, Ashish Pandey, Lavkush Rana, Shishu Pal, Ullas Kumar, also known as Mohit Trivedi, Ullas Kumar alias Mohit Trivedi, Rinku Rana, and Dharmendra Banjara are the other 12 prisoners.