Five years on and the Madhya Pradesh government is yet to fix responsibility for the release from jail of five SIMI men who were “wrongly” pardoned on Republic Day 2011.
The five men of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment on January 12, 2011 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and for spreading enmity between religions. They were pardoned under an amnesty scheme on January 26 that year, and released from the Khachrod sub-jail.
However, buckling under pressure from saffron groups in Ujjain and the media’s questioning of their release, the then Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state ordered the re-arrest of the men, who went on to serve their jail terms.
The convicted SIMI men were Akbar, Irshad Ali, Jadil Parvej, Ayaz alias Ashu and Mehruddin.
It was chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan — who recently dubbed as terrorists the eight suspected SIMI activists who were killed in an encounter by police on the outskirts of Bhopal — who had issued instructions to fix responsibility for the 2011 lapse.
But not a single officer has been held responsible yet.
Then assistant jail superintendent SK Gandley was suspended for dereliction of duty, but an inquiry later cleared him of the charge as he had sought verbal direction from his superior DIG, jail (law), RS Vijayvargiya on the government order, which didn’t discriminate between SIMI and non-SIMI prisoners.
The government order didn’t restrict remission of sentence of such prisoners who faced charges under Sections 124 (a) and 153 (a) of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. This reportedly went in the SIMI men’s favour.
Gandley was subsequently reinstated.
However, then jail minister Jagdish Devda in his official note sheet in July 2012 asked under what “circumstances and as per whose carelessness” the benefit of remittance was given to the SIMI activists. “Was it possible to prevent the remittance of SIMI prisoners even after issuance of the order on January 22, 2011? Was any initiative taken in this regard by someone?” he said.
Devda added: “The note sheet (with clarification) must be put up (before him) within 7 days. This is worth mentioning that curtain is being drawn over the entire episode in the name of a well intentioned error which is highly objectionable. Hon chief minister has issued categorical instructions to fix responsibility (on officers) in regard with the incident.”
When contacted, director general (jail) Sanjay Choudhary said he was not aware of the case but will look into it.
Vijayvargiya, who is now retired, maintained that he had explained to his superiors the circumstances under which the prisoners were released and that there was no goof-up on his part.
However, retd additional IG (jail) GK Agrawal, who helped clear Gandley’s name, said it was a glaring error on the part of the administration and the objective of his fight was to fix the system.
How the system currently works can be gauged from the escape of SIMI men from the Bhopal Central Jail recently, he said.