The Supreme Court Wednesday appointed Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to supervise the Uttar Pradesh SIT's probe on a day-to-day basis into the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which eight people including four farmers were killed on 3 October.
A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli also took note of the names of the IPS officers provided by the state government and appointed three officials as part of the state SIT.
The apex court-appointed three more police officers – SB Shirodkar, Deepinder Singh and Padmaja Chauhan – to the Special Investigation Team. They all are from outside Uttar Pradesh.
The CJI said that a detailed order will be passed shortly.
The top court said it would hear the case again after the SIT concludes its probe and files the status report and the charge sheet in the case.
The Uttar Pradesh government on 15 November had agreed to the apex court's suggestion that a former judge of its choice may be appointed to supervise the state SIT's probe.
The apex court, on 8 November, had expressed dissatisfaction over the probe and suggested that to infuse "independence, impartiality and fairness in the ongoing investigation, a former judge of a different high court should monitor it on a day-to-day basis.
The bench had also said that it has no confidence and does not want the one-member judicial commission appointed by the state to continue probe into the case.
Retired Allahabad High Court judge Justice Pradeep Kumar Srivastava was named by the state government to enquire into the eruption of violence on Tikonia-Banbirpur road in Lakhimpur Kheri district.
Observing that the investigation was not going the way it expected, the bench had red-flagged some of the issues pertaining to the SIT probe conducted so far and said: prima facie it appears that one particular accused (in the farmers' mowing down case) is sought to be given benefit by securing or procuring evidence from witnesses in the subsequent case related to the lynching of political activists by the farmers' mob.
It was also very critical of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of state police for seizing the mobile of Ashish Mishra, one of the arrested 13 accused, and the rest of the phones belonged to the witnesses to the alleged mowing down of the farmers.
"We have seen the status report. There is nothing in the status report except to say that some more witnesses have been examined. We granted 10 days' time. Laboratory reports have not come. No, no, no...it is not going the way we expected", it had said.
"We propose to appoint a person like say from Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Ranjit Singh, who has expertise in criminal law and army background... let an independent judge like Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, again from the same HC, monitor everything," it had said.
Prior to this, the bench had directed the Uttar Pradesh government to provide protection to witnesses under the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 and to record the statements of other witnesses before the judicial magistrate under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and expedite the examination of digital evidence by experts.
The police have so far arrested 13 accused, including Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra, in connection with the case. The apex court was hearing a matter about the 3 October violence in Lakhimpur Kheri in which eight persons including four farmers were killed during a farmers' protest.
Four farmers were mowed down by an SUV in the convoy at Lakhimpur Kheri when a group agitating against the Centre's three new farm laws was holding a demonstration against the visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on 3 October.
Two BJP workers and a driver were beaten to death allegedly by the angry protesters, and a local journalist was killed in the violence.
With inputs from PTI