The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Thursday asked the state government and the Anti-Terrorism Squad to submit a detailed report of the alleged encounter in which eight undertrial men belonging to the banned Students' Islamic Movement of India group were killed on October 31. The men died at the hands of security forces on the outskirts of Bhopal after they reportedly escaped from prison. The bail pleas of several of them were to be heard by a local court on Thursday, The Times of India reported.
The court’s order comes a day after ATS chief Sanjeev Shami said the SIMI men were unarmed when they were shot dead by men from his team. Shami's statement contradicts that of various police officials and state ministers who have repeatedly said the men were armed and fired at the police before they were killed. The Madhya Pradesh police even claimed to have recovered four firearms from the site of the shootout that they say were being used by the SIMI men.
Shami's statement further adds to the long line of questions raised about this incident. The police have held that the eight SIMI men escaped from Bhopal Central Jail after murdering a security guard. They were ntercepted on the outskirts of the city, and were eventually shot dead after they engaged the police in a gun battle, according to the police's version of the incident.
Videos contradicting police claims that the SIMI men were killed in crossfire surfaced a few days ago, raising doubts about the authenticity of the encounter. Amateur mobile phone videos of the incident showed the SIMI members engaging in conversation with the police before the shooting, while one also showed them with raised arms before they were killed.
The National Investigation Agency will look into how the undertrials were able to flee, while former director general of police Nandan Dubey will inquire into the security lapses on the part of the jail authorities.