The Allahabad High Court on May 19 acquitted Ajay Kumar Mishra alias Teni, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, and three others in a 23-year-old murder case. Mishra and others were accused of murdering Prabhat Gupta, a youth leader of the Samajwadi Party in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.
The “prosecution has utterly failed to establish the chain of events which can be said to exclusively lead to the one and only conclusion, i.e., the guilt of the accused persons,” noted a division bench of Justices Attau Rahman Masoodi and Om Prakash Shukla.
Rajeev Gupta, the brother of the deceased SP worker Prabhat Gupta, was dismayed at the verdict. “Justice has not been done. Blood was shed. There were witnesses and evidence. I could not get my brother justice,” said Gupta. He will now approach the Supreme Court to challenge the HC judgment.
The HC dismissed the criminal appeal and revision appeal filed against the acquittal of Mishra and others by a sessions court in 2004. Upholding the trial court verdict in the murder case, the HC bench acquitted Mishra and three others of all charges.
The incident dates back to 2000, when Mishra, today a prominent minister in the NDA, was a BJP worker. Mishra was yet to enter state-level electoral politics. In October 2021, Mishra came under the spotlight for negative reasons after his son Ashish Mishra alias Monu was accused of murdering four farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri’s Tikonia by mowing them down with his SUV. A total of eight persons died in the incident—four farmers were mowed down while three BJP workers and a driver were allegedly killed in retaliatory violence by the enraged mob of protesting farmers.
While his son was the prime accused in the October 3, 2021 incident, Mishra also found himself under the scanner after it surfaced that it was his provocative statements that had allegedly triggered the protests by farmers on the said day. On September 25, while warning protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, known as the sugar bowl of UP, to “mend themselves” or else he would not take more than two minutes to mend them himself, Mishra had also reminded them of his past record before he was elected a public representative and said that he did “not run from any challenge.”
His past record, the farmers construed, referred to the murder charge against him. However, responding to questions on his past record, a few days after the Tikonia incident of 2021, Mishra had said that “all cases against me had concluded in my favour.” He said the cases lodged against him in the past were “fake” and attempts to implicate him had “failed.” “I have never been lodged in a thana and I have never been to jail,” Mishra said then.
In court, Mishra and the other accused said they had been falsely implicated due to political rivalry and enmity over panchayat elections.
The murder case against Mishra, who is a Member of Parliament from Kheri Lok Sabha constituency, was a long-drawn affair, full of adjournments and delayed judicial process stretching more than two decades. According to the FIR lodged in 2000 and the revision petition filed by the murdered Prabhat Gupta’s father Santosh Gupta in 2004 in the Allahabad High Court, it was alleged that Prabhat alias Raju and Mishra had rivalry over a recently held panchayat election and on July 8, 2000 when Raju was going to his shop from his house he was fired at on his temple and between his chest and abdomen. Prabhat fell on the ground and died, said the revision petition. The Gupta family accused Mishra and three others.
A local sessions court in March 2004 acquitted Mishra and three others in the murder case of Prabhat Gupta.
While upholding the trail court verdict, the Allahabad High Court on May 19, observed that the “evidence recorded in the present case has been appreciated in its correct perspective and the Trial court has at no point of time missed the woods of the tree.” “This court has also recorded its independent finding and holds that the theory put forth by prosecution that the four accused persons were liable for causing death of the deceased is unconvincing and shorn of evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt,” said the Bench.
While the early days of his public life were marred by charges of the murder case, Mishra’s political career witnessed a constant upward growth over the years. In 2014, he won his first Lok Sabha election from Kheri when he was already a sitting MLA from Nighasan Assembly seat he won in 2012. In 2007, he had narrowly lost from Nighasan. The big political high for him came in 2019 when he retained his Kheri Lok Sabha seat, defeating the combined force of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party by almost 20% vote margin. When Mishra won his first Lok Sabha election in 2014, he had ended the long streak of Kurmi (OBC) domination in Kheri. He became the first Brahmin to win from the largely rural constituency.
From 2000-2005, Mishra served as the vice-president of the district cooperative bank. From 2005-2010, Mishra was a member of the Kheri Zilla Panchayat.