Bhopal: After ordering a judicial probe into the Bhopal jailbreak and alleged encounter of eight SIMI activists, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh has put on hold the cash rewards it had announced for the policemen who took part in the operation, throwing up questions about its veracity.
"After the announcement of judicial probe into the incident, the government cannot give cash rewards to anyone till the completion of the inquiry," a highly-placed official told PTI.
"The cash rewards were announced prior to the announcement of the judicial probe and therefore, it is logical that it can not be given till the inquiry gets over," the official said. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced a reward of Rs 2 lakh each for policemen involved in the shootout, a day after the alleged encounter took place on 31 October.
However, the rights activists had demanded that the cash reward be withheld till the probe unearthed the details of the encounter.
"The government should at least wait till the completion of several inquiries it has instituted to probe the encounter to justify the reward," Abdul Jabbar, a social activist, had said.
"It (the reward) cannot be justified till the probe is complete and all questions raised on the issue are properly addressed," he said.
Transparency International's Ajay Dube also questioned the "rationale" of announcing the reward when the state is under the scanner over the veracity of the encounter. "The government should have waited for the outcome of the judicial inquiry it has instituted into the encounter. Announcing (rewards for policemen) before it amounts to giving them a clean chit and to influence those involved in it (the probe)," he said.
Eight activists of the banned outfit, SIMI, were killed in the encounter on the city outskirts hours after they killed a head constable and pulled off an audacious escape from the high-security central jail.
A PIL was filed two days back in the Madhya Pradesh High Court by a journalist and social worker seeking a judicial probe into the alleged encounter.
The undertrial activists of the outlawed outfit escaped from the central jail here on the intervening night of 30 and 31 October. They were subsequently killed in an encounter on the outskirts of the city early on 31 October.
After the encounter, conflicting versions from police and state Home Minister have surfaced, leading to allegations that it might be fake.
TV channels have also shown footage purportedly from the encounter site, in which a policeman is seen pumping bullets into a man from close range after some unidentified person takes out what appears to be a knife in a plastic cover and places it back.
Later, an audio tape also emerged purportedly containing conversation related to the encounter, which states that the policemen on job were getting instructions from control room to "bump them off" and "khel khatam ho gaya" (game is over now).
Raising questions about the encounter, Congress and other opposition parties had pressed for a judicial probe into the entire episode. The judicial probe will be conducted by retired High
Court Judge Justice S K Pandey.