A year after 8 SIMI activists escaped from the Bhopal Central Jail and were killed in a subsequent encounter, lawyers representing the kin of those killed have said that the several questions surrounding the encounter still remain unanswered. They said that they will take the next step of legal recourse after they receive the official report of the inquiry commission.
"The commission didn't allow cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses and (cross-examination of) the articles that were presented before the panel," said Deepchand Yadav, senior lawyer on Monday.
"Neither the keys that were supposedly made by toothbrushes to open the locks of the ISO certified high-security jail, were shown before commission, nor the sheets that were used to make ladders and scale the walls were presented. We were not even taken along by the panel during spot examination", he added.
Senior lawyer Syed Sajid Ali said that there were grievances with the administration, as facts were suppressed and even the commission didn't leave scope for equal opportunity.
"There are hundreds of locks in jail that are changed daily on rotation basis and entries are made in registers. The prisoners have no idea which lock would be installed in which cell or barrack, yet, the keys were made."
Casting doubts on the police theory, Ali said, "In the (Bhopal) Central Jail, it is not possible to open a lock from inside the cell. But as per the account of the police, eight persons made keys, opened the locks, came out of cells, managed to break out of barrack too, walked passed all security with no camera functioning that day, and scaled the walls."
Raising further questions on the encounter, Ali wondered how the eight men allegedly killed one guard while leaving the other unharmed and then dressed up, shaved and covered just 10 kms in eight hours after which they were shot dead.
"We have come to know through the media that the probe by justice (retired) SK Pandey Commission has given a clean-chit to administration. Once the report is tabled in the Assembly and we get it, we can challenge it in the high court", he said.
The lawyers have claimed that there are many loopholes in the investigation — ranging from contradictions in versions given by officials of the escapees being armed or unarmed and on the recovery of weapons. "After the encounter, media persons had reached spot but no weapon was to be found, yet later in the evening the police had suddenly claimed that weapons were found on the spot."
"They were all killed in cold-blood, shot in upper part of body and no policemen had any bullet injury."
"How can there be a fair probe when officers remain at the same post. IG Yogesh Chaudhary is still heading Bhopal range. He was not shifted. It is also strange that the police killed all the eight persons, even pumping bullets into the injured as footage revealed. If even one person was caught alive, we would have come to know how the jailbreak happened but they were all killed in cold-blood, shot in upper part of body and no policemen had any bullet injury", Ali added.
The lawyers claimed that the encounter was fake, unless proved otherwise. They insisted that facts about encounter were kept hidden by administration and the truth must be brought out in public.
They said that the persons killed were not convicted in any terror case and that legal fight would continue – the police officials involved in it would be made accused through filing a private complaint in court, subsequently.
The encounter had taken place on the night of October 31, 2016. The state government had appointed a one-member inquiry commission that has submitted its report to the government.