The Supreme Court today granted interim bail to Ashish Mishra, the main accused in the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri Violence and son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra.

A Bench comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari observed that "it is imperative to balance the rights of the petitioner's liberty emanated under Article 21 vis-a-vis the state's right to ensure fair and proper trial".

The Apex Court said that it is issuing the following directions in the interest of justice and on an experimental basis:

1. The petitioner (Ashish Mishra) is directed to be released on interim bail, initially for a period of 08 weeks, subject to the furnishing of a bail bond by him to the satisfaction of the trial court.

2. The petitioner is directed to leave the State of Uttar Pradesh within one week of the date of his release on interim bail.

3. The petitioner shall not stay in the State of Uttar Pradesh or the NCT of Delhi during the period of interim bail.

4. The petitioner shall disclose his place of 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.

5. He shall mark his presence in a jurisdictional police station once a week.

6. The petitioner shall surrender his passport to the trial court and he shall not enter the state of Uttar Pradesh except to attend the trial proceedings.

7. Any attempt by the petitioner, his family, or supporters to influence the witnesses, directly or indirectly, shall entail cancellation of interim bail. The prosecution, SIT, informant or any other family members of the victims of the crime will be at liberty to come to inform the court of any incident of misuse of interim bail.

8. The petitioner shall appear before the trial court on every date of hearing and no adjournment will be sought on his behalf. If the petitioner is found involved in prolonging the trial, it shall be taken as a valid ground to cancel the interim bail.

Further, the Supreme Court in the exercise of its suo moto constitutional power, extended the benefit of interim bail (till further orders) to the other four under-trial accused, whose bail applications were stated to be pending before the Allahabad High Court.

The Apex Court has also directed the Trial Court to send a progress report to the Supreme Court after every date of hearing along with details of witnesses examined on each date. It listed the matter for further directions on March 14, 2023.

Senior Advocates Mukul Rohagti and Ranjit Kumar appeared on behalf of Ashish Mishra submitted that their client has been in custody for more than a year and the way the trial is going, it will take seven to eight years to complete it.

Additional Advocate General for Uttar Pradesh Garima Prasad opposed the grant of bail to Mishra saying that the crime was grave. "It is a grave and heinous crime and (granting bail) will send a wrong signal to society," she said.

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave appearing for those opposing the bail plea, said that granting bail will send a terrible message to society

The First Additional Sessions Judge at Lakhimpur, Uttar Pradesh, who is conducting the trial in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence case in which Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra's son is an accused, earlier informed the Supreme Court that it might take around five years to conclude the trial in normal course. (Read Report)

On an earlier date, the Supreme Court had asked the Sessions Judge to inform as to how much time in the normal course is likely to take to conclude the trial, without compromising with the schedule of other pending or prioritized matters in the said Court.

On October 3, 2021, eight people were killed in Tikunia in the Lakhimpur Kheri district during violence that erupted when farmers were protesting against the then Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit to the area.

Four farmers were mowed down by an SUV, in which Ashish Mishra was seated, according to the Uttar Pradesh Police FIR. Following the incident, the driver and two BJP workers were allegedly lynched by angry farmers. A journalist also died in the violence.

On December 6 last year, the trial court had framed charges against Ashish Mishra and 12 others for alleged offences of murder, criminal conspiracy, and others in the case of mowing down of protesting farmers in October 2021 in Lakhimpur Kheri, paving the way for the start of the trial.

A total of 13 accused, including Ashish Mishra, have been charged under 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 Supreme Court on January 19, reserved the hearing after the hearing was concluded in the matter and said that it is a case of balancing the rights of the parties.