“This is just another assignment for me but I am yet to get a formal order regarding my appointment.” This was the reaction of retired justice SK Pande after he was named to head the judicial commission that will look into the alleged escape and subsequent killing of the 8 SIMI operatives in a police encounter in Bhopal last week.
All the 8 SIMI operatives were killed on the outskirts of Bhopal within 8 hours of their alleged escape.
Facing a barrage of attacks from the Opposition and rights activists, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a judicial probe into whole incident on Friday. However, a formal order is yet to be issued by the state secretariat.
Justice Pande refused to answer queries and said this was all he had to say.
A native of Rewa district, Pande was the district judge of Bhopal before his elevation as a high court judge posted at Jabalpur. He was justice at the high court from March 21, 2003 to August 4, 2006.
However, what is causing consternation in the state’s power corridors is a post by former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju on Saturday.
His post on Twitter and Facebook read, “Often when a judicial probe is announced you can know its outcome by knowing the name of the judge.”
While he left many guessing with his post, Katju later posted another comment on Twitter in response to a follower’s query for an example of the same. He posted, “I gave example of Ranganath Mishra, former CJI, enquiring about Sikh massacre in 1984.”
Justice Pande has in the past headed an inquiry commission that looked into a stampede in Datia in 2013. He gave several recommendations but the state government reportedly swept them under the carpet.
Talking to the Hindustan Times, RTI activist Ajay Dubey said, “Justice Pande did an excellent task during his tenure and he was an upright and efficient judge. As the chairman of a previous commission he gave several good recommendations on Datia stampede but the government didn’t implement it.”
Advocate SR Gupta from Jabalpur said justice Pande used to write his orders in his own hand and his judgments, especially those related to civil disputes, were supposed to be milestone.
A senior bureaucrat who did not want to be named said he had observed justice Pande for a long time and what impressed him most about the judge was that he used to travel to Rewa from Jabalpur by a regular bus during his leave. He never used the official car for personal use.