Scatter Sense that you are dragging your feet, Apex Court tells Uttar Pradesh special investigation team on Lakhimpur Kheri brutality

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The Supreme Court of India pulls up UP govt, says the state has to 'identify and protect vulnerable witnesses'. The Uttar Pradesh government faced serious questions today from the top court on the killing of farmers at a protest in Lakhimpur Kheri earlier this month and was told sternly to "dispel the feeling that you are dragging your feet". Ordering the UP government to protect and record the statement of all witnesses, the Supreme Court also admonished, "This should not be an unending story". “We get the impression that you are dragging your feet…Please do the needful to dispel that,” a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana told senior advocate Harish Salve, who represented the UP government. After perusing a status report filed by the Uttar Pradesh government, the Bench repeatedly sought to know the number of accused arrested, the status of their police/judicial custody and how many witnesses’ statements had been recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC, which would make it difficult for them to retract. The Supreme Court questioned why the statements of over 40 witnesses are yet to be recorded, Senior Advocate Harish Salve, who presented for the State of Uttar Pradesh, said that it was likely because courts were closed due to Dussehra festival vacations.  But the bench pointed out that the criminal courts will not be closed during vacations. At this point, Senior Advocate Garima Prashad, also appearing for the State of UP, submitted that the police was reconstructing the crime scene. However, the bench observed that reconstruction of the crime scene and recording of the statement before the judicial magistrate were two different things. Salve referred to concerns expressed by the bench on the previous date of hearing regarding the non-arrest of the accused and said “a concern was stated that the state was going soft on the accused. Now everybody is arrested and they are in jail”. He submitted that “there are two crimes – one where they drove into farmers and second, where those who drove vehicles were lynched” and added that the second was more difficult to probe as there were many farmer protesters. Salve then asked for more time. After hearing arguments, the SC posted the matter for the next hearing on October 26 and The CJI finally said, "This should not be an unending story, this is all we want".