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SC reconstitutes SIT, appoints retd judge in Lakhimpur Kheri case (Ld)

 
New Delhi, Nov 17 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it is concerned about guaranteeing an impartial and fair investigation, as it appointed justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court, to monitor the Lakhimpur Kheri violence probe. The top court also reconstituted the SIT investigating the incident and appointed IPS officer S.B. Shiradkar as its head.

During the hearing, a bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana said: "We appoint Rakesh Kumar Jain (retired judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court)... to ensure absolute impartiality in the investigation of the case."

The bench, in its order, said: "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."

The bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli also expressed its disapproval of the slow pace, manner and outcome of the investigation conducted so far, as well as the composition of the SIT charged with investigating the matter.

The bench noted that the Supreme Court and high courts are the "sentinels of justice" that ensure that the rule of law and constitutional guarantees of a fair and impartial investigation into alleged criminality, are upheld.

The bench said it is appointing justice Jain, 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.

"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," said the top court.

It further added: "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 Uttar Pradesh though are allocated to UP cadre."

The short-listed officers of the SIT are -- S.B. Shiradkar IPS, Batch RR 1993 ADG Intelligence HQ, hailing from Nanded, Maharashtra (Head of SIT); Padmaja Chauhan, IG, IPS RR 1998; and Preetinder Singh, DIG, IPS RR 2004.

The bench said the newly constituted SIT shall be free to seek assistance from, and/or associate with or include the local police of Lakhimpur Kheri for taking the ongoing investigation to its logical conclusion under the continuous monitoring of the judge.

"The SIT shall make all efforts to conclude the investigation expeditiously and file the chargesheet," said the court, and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to provide all assistance to the monitoring judge.

The violence occurred on October 3, resulting in the killing of eight persons, including four farmers who were allegedly mowed down by the vehicles in the convoy of Ashish Mishra, the son of Union Minister and BJP MP Ajay Kumar Mishra.

--IANS
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