Slain SIMI man's mom to be released from Odisha prison after 28 months

Dejected with the probe panel findings, the kin of the slain SIMI men are planning to move the Supreme Court now.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

BHOPAL: A 60-year-old woman Najma Bi from Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh lodged in the Rourkela Special Jail in Odisha since last 28 months has been granted bail by the Supreme Court in a terror-related case and will soon be released from jail. Najma, a resident of communally sensitive Ganesh Talai locality of Khandwa town is the mother of Sheikh Mehboob alias Guddu, who was among the eight alleged activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) who were gunned down by MP police in an alleged encounter on the outskirts of Bhopal on October 31, 2016 morning, just a few hours they escaped from Bhopal Central Jail killing a jail guard.

"The Supreme Court granted bail to Najma on July 2 and we expect her to be out of the jail in Rourkela soon," her counsel Mubin Akhtar told The New Indian Express over the phone on Wednesday. Four alleged SIMI operatives, including Sheikh Mehboob alias Guddu, Amjad, Zaqir and Mohd Saliq, besides Mehboob's mother Najma were arrested from a house in Rourkela town in a joint operation of Telangana and Odisha police in February 2016, after a brief encounter with the cops.

Three of the arrested quintet, Mehboob, Amjad and Zaqir were among the six SIMI jailbirds who had escaped from the Tantya Bheel Jail in Khandwa town of MP on the intervening night of September 30 and October 1, 2013. The arrested quintet, including Najma were booked under various laws, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosives Substance Act and also under IPC provisions, said Najma's counsel.

"Prior to moving the Supreme Court we had tried to get bail from the district and sessions court and the High Court in Odisha, but the courts denied bail to her. It was in October-November 2017 that we moved the bail plea in the apex court and she was finally granted bail on July 2, 2018," he added. The team of lawyers was led by senior Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves, who is also the founder of Human Rights Law Network.

"We argued for bail to Najma on multiple grounds, including questioning the tenability of the police and prosecutors accusations about the 60-year-old women being a member of the banned student outfit and provoking her son and his aides to commit the offence. Also, she had no previous track record, unlike her son and his aides, who were accused in several terror-related cases and the 2013 Khandwa jailbreak case. Further, we submitted that if an Odisha based insurance agent N Sahu who allegedly helped the alleged SIMI operatives in getting forged documents prepared in Rourkela, can be granted bail by the session court, then why is bail being denied to the elderly woman," said Akhtar.

Grant of bail to Najma Bi in the terror-related case by the Supreme Court comes just a week after the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government tabled in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly the report of the judicial probe panel constituted in November 2016 to probe the October 30-31, 2016 intervening night Bhopal Central jailbreak and the subsequent death of the eight SIMI men by police in alleged encounter. The single member probe panel headed by retired High Court judge SK Pandey has concluded that police firing on the eight armed SIMI men which led to their death was reasonable and unavoidable under the prevailing circumstances. Dejected with the probe panel findings, the kin of the slain SIMI men are planning to move the Supreme Court now.

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