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Crime

Lakhimpur Kheri violence: Supreme Court seeks Uttar Pradesh govt reply in lynching FIR, directs protection of witnesses

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a separate report from the Uttar Pradesh Police on investigation in the second FIR in Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which four persons, including a journalist, were killed. The top court also ordered protection of witnesses in the case.

The widow of an accused-deceased told the top court that her husband’s killers were roaming free, and no action has been taken against them.

Senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj, representing Ruby Devi, widow of Shyam Sundar, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana that there are three accused who are allegedly responsible for her husband’s death and the police have not taken any action against them.

Bhardwaj said ‘killers are roaming free and threatening his client’.

Another advocate representing the journalist, who was killed in the incident, also urged the court to direct the police to apprehend the accused involved.

The bench directed separate replies must be filed by Uttar Pradesh with respect to the counter-case of lynching of a person named Shyam Sundar, who was allegedly attacked after the car ploughed into farmers’ protest, and also killing of journalist Raman Kashyap.

In Sundar’s matter, Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, submitted he was an accused who was also killed in the incident and the police are also probing it along with the death of the journalist, who was in the car.

Chief Justice told Salve to file a separate reply in the matter. The bench noted there are two complainants before the court — one by Ruby Devi and the other in connection with the death of a journalist. “State is directed to file separate replies in the case,” said the bench, fixing the matter for further hearing on November 8.

The bench also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli also sought forensic labs, examining the digital evidence in the matter, to expedite the process of submitting evidence in the case.

The bench expressed surprise that out of a gathering of 4,000-5,000 people, only 23 people are eyewitnesses to the incident, where a car ploughed into the farmers’ protest.

Salve, at the outset submitted that out of 68, thirty witnesses have recorded their statements under 164 CrPC. Of these, 23 are eyewitnesses. Chief Justice queried that in a case where there were hundreds of farmers in a rally, only 23 people were there?

Salve replied that the government gave an advertisement and the people who saw the accused in the car are already there. “Digital media (large numbers) has been recovered. There are overlapping videos”, he added.

Salve further contended that there was also a person who was conducting videography of the event, and the digital evidence would be sent to labs so that they can be admitted as evidence in the case.

On the aspect of few eyewitnesses in the matter, Justice Kant pointed out that mostly local people were there at the spot and after the incident most of them have been agitating for an inquiry. He told Salve that accessibility and identification of such persons in the vehicle should not be a major issue.

Salve replied 164 statements can be submitted to the top court in a sealed cover and added that 16 accused have been identified. The bench, in its order, said: “Regarding witness protection, we direct the witnesses to be provided protection by the state. We further direct that 164 statements… to be recorded expeditiously.”

The top court had registered a petition based on a letter by two lawyers seeking a probe by the CBI in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

A total of eight people, including four farmers and a local journalist, apart from the two BJP men and their driver, were killed in the incident. Farmers were allegedly mowed down by a car of Ashish Misra, son of Union Minister of State Ajay Misra Teni.

Crime

Centre clarifies on 3rd wave possibility after Omicron detection

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Omicron cases are increasingly being reported from countries outside of South Africa. India has also reported two cases of Omicron Covid variant and is likely to spread to more countries.

“Given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to Delta variant as evidenced by high seropositivity, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low. However, scientific evidence is still evolving,” said the Health Ministry on Friday. It added further that the scale and magnitude of rise in cases and most importantly the severity of disease that will be caused is still not clear.

On the question of existing vaccine efficacy against this variant, the health ministry has said that there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron, some of the mutations reported on Spike gene may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines. However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved.

“Hence vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease, and vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial. If eligible, but not vaccinated, one should get vaccinated,” it added.

The response measures for all variants of concern, including Omicron, is the same as that for SARs CoV2. The ministry has said that the precautions and steps to be taken remain the same as before. “It is essential to mask yourself properly, take both doses of vaccines (if not yet vaccinated), maintain social distancing and maintain good ventilation to the maximum possible”, said the ministry in a statement.

The government is monitoring the situation closely and is issuing suitable guidelines, said the ministry, adding that the scientific and medical community is geared up for developing and deploying diagnostics, carrying out genomic surveillance, generating evidence about viral and epidemiologic characteristics, and development of therapeutics.

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Crime

Trouble looms for Balakrishnan as Mumbai HC to hear son’s DNA case

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The Mumbai High Court has posted for January 4 the case of a DNA test result of Binoy Kodiyeri, the elder son of CPI-M politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan who was all set to return as Kerala CPI-M state secretary.

A woman from Bihar has alleged that Binoy had a relationship with her while she was working at a dance bar in Dubai in 2008 and till 2015, he used to send her money every month. They also have an eight-year-old child.

The woman had first filed a petition in 2019 and in July 2019 Binoy approached the Mumbai High Court seeking dismissal of the rape case filed by the woman. The court asked all the three to go for a DNA test and Binoy appeared for it on July 30, 2019.

Following which the case went into a limbo. In December 2020 the DNA result was filed before the court in a sealed cover and on Thursday the woman approached the court wanting to know the result. The court has now posted this case for January 4.

Incidentally Balakrishnan who is a cancer patient, was given medical leave by the party soon after his younger son Bineesh Kodiyeri was arrested in October 2020 by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

However Balakrishnan breathed easy when Bineesh got bail from the Karnataka High Court after being in a jail in Bengaluru in October this year. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan strongly backed Balakrishnan to return to the post and the green signal was to have come from the state secretariat on Friday, when came the news about Binoy.

The news about Binoy has come at a time when the CPI-M, ahead of the party state conference scheduled for early next year, wanted Balakrishnan to take over. Sources in the know of things say Balakrishnan will be asked to take over after the national leadership of the party last month asked the state leadership to take a call on it.

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Five dead, one injured in road accident in Gurugram

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 Five people were killed after a car crashed into a roadside wall and overturned on Sadhrana road near Gadhi village here on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday.

According to police, the deceased have been identified as Sagar, Jibech, Niaz Khan, Prince and Jagbir.

One person, identified as Hardik Tiwari, was injured in the incident.

The victims were returning to Gurugram city from Sadhrana village after attending a marriage.

“All of them were coming from a wedding ceremony in Sadhrana village. The mishap was a result of speeding and a damaged road. All the victims used to work in a city-based private hospital. Police are taking necessary action,” Gurugram police spokesperson Subhash Boken said.

“The injured man has been shifted to a hospital in critical condition. While the bodies have been sent for post-mortem. Further probe is on,” he added.

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