The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear on April 24 a plea seeking an independent inquiry into the killings of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj, PTI reported.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud took note of the submissions of advocate Vishal Tiwari, who filed the petition and sought an urgent hearing.

The Ahmed brothers were shot dead on April 15 from close range by three men posing as journalists while police personnel were taking them for a medical check-up.

At the time, the brothers were in police custody in connection with the murder of lawyer Umesh Pal, who was a witness in the killing of Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Raju Pal in 2005. Umesh Pal was shot dead in Prayagraj on February 24. Days later, the Uttar Pradesh Police booked Ahmed, his wife Sahista Parveen, two of their sons, Ashraf, among others, for Pal’s murder.

Last month, Ahmed had approached the Supreme Court alleging that his life was under threat from the Uttar Pradesh Police. “If this court denies [Ahmed] protection, it would mean a death warrant for him,” his counsel had submitted before the court.

However, a division bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi dismissed the plea and told Ahmed to move the High Court instead.

In his plea before the Supreme Court, Tiwari also sought an inquiry into the 183 “encounters” that have taken place in Uttar Pradesh since 2017.

“Encounters”, or extrajudicial executions, have risen since the Bhartiya Janata Party government came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.

In connection with the Umesh Pal murder case, the police gunned down Ahmed’s teenage son Asad and an aide in Jhansi on April 13. Two more accused in the case were also shot dead in “gunfights” by the police on February 27 and March 6.

“In a democratic society the police cannot be allowed to become a mode of delivering final justice or to become a punishing authority,” Tiwari said in his plea. “The power of punishment is only vested in the judiciary.”

The advocate sought the constitution of an independent expert committee under a retired Supreme Court judge to look into the killings.

“When the police turn dare devils then the entire rule of law collapses and generates fear in the mind of people against the police which is very dangerous for democracy and this also results into further crime,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ahmed’s lawyer Vijay Mishra told PTI that a letter written by his client is being sent to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath and Chief Justice Chandrachud.

“Atiq Ahmed had said that if there were any mishap or if he was murdered, the letter in the sealed envelope should be sent [to them],” he said.

Mishra claimed that he does not know what is written in the letter. “It is kept somewhere else and being sent by some other person,” he added.