The Indian legal system operates on the presumption of innocence - a person is held innocent until proven guilty. However, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan turned that around today during a press conference in Bhopal when he suggested that the eight under-trials who were killed in an encounter in the city last month were termed "terrorists" because of the "perception" of their guilt.
When asked why he termed the eight SIMI men killed in the encounter at Acharpra as "durdant aatankwadi" (dreaded terrorists) when their trial was still on and they had not been held guilty by the court, Chouhan said: "...because of acts, perception is formed... acts in the past are known to society and the nation...."
Chouhan, who was at the event at Hotel Jehan Numa to mark completion of 11 years as chief minister, spoke in Hindi. His exact words were: 'kaamon ke kaaran perception banta hai...pahle jo kiya wah desh ke saamne hai...".
Without naming SIMI, he further said that "such people from whom there is threat....it is the duty to warn society and save people from them." The jailbreak in which a security personnel was killed and the encounter a few hours later, had hit national headlines.
At that time, Chouhan had asked people to raise their hands if they supported the encounter, at a public function in Bhopal. It was here that he had used the term, "durdant aatankwadi" and announced cash rewards to policemen and villagers.
However, the decision to distribute the cash rewards was put off after condemnation of the alleged encounter in the media, and especially because an inquiry was not even initiated in the case.
Civil society members and several groups, including Muslim organisations in Bhopal, had condemned the use of the term "terrorists" before the court's verdict.
Parvez Alam, lawyer for the under-trials, had told HuffPost India that "prosecution had failed to establish even the SIMI membership of his clients in the past who were branded as SIMI operatives, let alone their involvement in any terror act". The encounter had taken place on 31 October.