The Uttar Pradesh government faced tough questions today from the Supreme 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".
Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra is accused of running over four farmers during a protest on October 3. More were killed in the violence that erupted afterwards. Ashish Mishra was arrested on October 11, three days after the Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction with the Uttar Pradesh government's progress in the case.
The Supreme Court had asked the Yogi Adityanath government to list in a status report how many have been arrested over the killing of eight persons and on what charges.
The court was unhappy today over the UP government submitting its report "last-minute".
"We waited till 1 AM last night that we will get material," Chief Justice of India NV Ramana told senior lawyer Harish Salve, who is representing the UP government.
Mr Salve said the report had been submitted in a sealed cover yesterday.
"How can we read it if it gets filed last minute? At least file it a day before," the Chief Justice shot back.
The judges also asked why more witnesses had not been questioned by the UP government.
"You have recorded the statements of only four witnesses so far out of 44. Why not more?" - asked Chief Justice Ramana.
"The process is still going on. And all key accused have been arrested," Mr Salve replied.
When the Supreme Court asked how many had been arrested, the lawyer said: "Arrests were made for two crimes - one for mowing down the farmers and the other for the lynching of those connected to the car. In the first case 10 have been arrested."
The court ordered the state government to protect the witnesses and question more of them.
"Unless the police is questioning them we will not get more on the issue. This should not be an unending story," said the Chief Justice.
Justice Hima Kohli added: "We feel you are dragging your feet. Please dispel that."
In a hearing on October 8, the bench comprising Chief Justice Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli had expressed dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the UP government.
On the very day of the hearing, Ashish Mishra had skipped a police summons.
"We are not satisfied with action taken by UP government so far. We expect responsible government and police. The allegations are very serious, including gunshot injuries," the Chief Justice had said.
Mr Salve admitted, on behalf of the UP government, that "not enough had been done".
"Yes, the authorities should have done the needful..." he told the court.
Ashish Mishra was finally called for questioning after the Supreme Court pulled up the UP government and police and asked for a report on the action taken.
Both Ashish Mishra and his father have denied all charges. Mr Mishra told NDTV that the car belonged to his family but neither he nor his son were in it when the incident took place.