The police action in which eight runaway prisoners in Bhopal were killed in October 2016 was “quite inevitable and reasonable” under the circumstances, a judicial inquiry has found. A single-member judicial panel had submitted its report in September 2017, but was tabled in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly on Monday, reported The Indian Express.
“The deceased persons were asked to surrender but instead of complying, they started firing at the police and public,” the inquiry found. “So, it became necessary for the police to open fire...Even after the police opened fire, they showed no intention to surrender and as a result, sustained injuries and died on the spot.”
In an encounter near Bhopal on October 31, 2016, police had shot dead eight members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India outfit, hours after they escaped the Bhopal Central Jail the previous night. Audio clips and videos in the media had hinted that there was no exchange of fire and that higher authorities had allegedly ordered that the prisoners be shot dead.
A few days later, the Madhya Pradesh government ordered a judicial investigation headed by retired judge SK Pande to investigate the jailbreak and encounter. The government, which had already announced cash rewards for the police officers involved, then decided to wait until the inquiry was over.
The eight SIMI members who had escaped were facing trials in several cases, including for offences punishable with death or life imprisonment.
Justice Pande visited the prison and the village where the encounter took place in June 2017. His inquiry found that the prisoners had opened the lock of their cell using a key and then scaled the jail’s wall with a ladder made of bedsheets and wooden pieces. He recommended that the height of the wall be increased.