L.S. Herdenia

Courtesy- cartoonistsatish.blogspot.in

The MP government has issued a notification for judicial inquiry into the jailbreak and alleged encounter of eight SIMI operatives, four days after chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made the announcement. Justice (Retd) SK Pande will head the one-man inquiry commission in Bhopal.

Immediately after the incident the state government said that NIA will be asked to enquire into the circumstances of jail break but under no circumstance encounter episode will be enquired.

Several Muslim organisations, human rights activists and opposition Congress have sought a high-level judicial probe into the incident, which they alleged was a “staged encounter”. Under pressure, chief minister finally announced a judicial probe on Thursday, a move seen by many as CM’s possible bid to placate the minority community and stem a potential controversy.

On October 31, eight SIMI men fled Bhopal central jail after killing a warder and overpowering a jail sentry. They allegedly opened the locks of their cells and scaled the wall of the high-security prison with the help of a rope made of bed-sheets. Within eight hours, they were gunned down at a hillock on the outskirts of Bhopal.

The probe will primarily look into the circumstances under which the eight SIMI operatives escaped from the central jail, the role prison officers and employees in the jailbreak, if any and the sequence of events that led to the encounter at Manikhedi village on the outskirts of Bhopal.

According to the terms of reference, the inquiry should be complete in three months from the date of publication of the notification in the state gazette. The report will also propose suggestions to avert such incidents in future.

As the MP government instituted a judicial inquiry into the jailbreak and the encounter of eight SIMI operatives under justice SK Pande, the opposition has raised doubts if it would prove to be a mere hogwash and meet the fate of other such judicial probes that have been pending for over last 10 years. The opposition says the state government has “failed” to table reports of as many as nine judicial commissions in the state assembly, which is mandatory.

The state government on Monday instituted a judicial inquiry into the jailbreak and encounter cases, bypassing a demand for an investigation by the National Investigation Agency.

Congress legislator from Gwalior-Chambal region, Ramniwas Rawat has recently written to Governor Omprakash Kohali to draw his attention to the alleged apathy of the state government towards tabling the reports of the judicial probes in the state assembly.
Congress MLA Ramniwas Rawat told media “The BJP is in habit of instituting the judicial commissions just to placate people and divert their attention from the real issue immediately.”

The list of reports include a justice SK Dubey commission inquiry instituted to look into an incident related to election to the post of president in Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 2000. Even after 16 years, the report was still pending in the home department, Rawat claimed.

A report prepared by the Gulab Singh Solanki Commission, which was assigned the task of looking into the death of then deputy director commercial tax in 2004, was submitted but was pending in the home department too.

Other reports that have not been tabled before in the state assembly includes one prepared by Justice SS Jha Commission into the alleged irregularities committed in sale deeds and other irregularities related to Sardar Sarovar Project in 2008 and Justice NK Jain Commission deputed to inquire into a pension scam of the Indore Municipal Corporation. The law department is looking into the reports.

A judicial commission, constituted in 2010 to look into leakage of gas from the erstwhile Union Carbide factory that killed a large number of people in Bhopal in 1984, has submitted its report to the government but allegedly no action was taken in this regard.

The other judicial commissions include CP Kulshrestha commission, RS Tripathi commission and a commission headed by justice (retd) Aryendra Kumar Saxena. Kulshrestha and Saxena are yet to submit their reports to the state government.

The list of nine judicial commissions does not include the previous justice SK Pande commission which looked into Datia stampede.

When asked, revenue minister Umashankar Gupta said it was difficult for him to tell right know if how many reports were tabled or not tabled. However, he was sure that the government followed all the procedures. As far as action was concerned the government took actions on recommendations what it deemed fit.

Meanwhile according to a report reaching from Indore about 200 right-wing activists gathered at senior advocate Anand Mohan Mathur’s residence on Monday evening and shouted slogans against him for questioning the government on the alleged encounter of the eight SIMI men on October 31.

Mathur was briefly put under house arrest on Saturday for trying to hold a demonstration to protest against the encounter, whose veracity has been questioned by many individuals and groups. A number of social activists were also intercepted by police from reaching Indore’s Regal Square, the site of the protest.

A witness told newsmen that at least 200 people gathered at Mathur’s residence near Geeta Bhawan Square on Monday and shouted slogans labeling him as anti-national. They also tried to hurl stones and cow dung at the house and blacken Mathur’s face, but about 50 policemen present at the spot foiled their efforts and dispersed them.

Several lawyers and activists have come out in support of Mathur, a former advocate general, condemning the gagging act by police and compared it with the days of emergency. Congress general secretary and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh posted a tweet demanding CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan to apologise to Mathur for the treatment meted out to him by police and administration.

Meanwhile, Mathur also wrote a letter to the chief minister and demanded justice SK Pande, a retired judge of Madhya Pradesh high court, be dropped as the head of the judicial commission announced to conduct inquiry into the Bhopal jailbreak and alleged encounter.

“I have known justice Pande since the time he was a civil judge at Jabalpur. He is known to be a sympathiser of RSS and will not be the right person to probe the encounter. A senior judge from the Supreme Court should be appointed for the same, as only then can an impartial report will be expected,” said 90 year-old Mathur.


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