An inquiry commission, comprising former Supreme Court judge VS Sirpurkar, former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Baldota and former CBI director DR Karthikeyan, was constituted by the Supreme Court on Thursday, December 12, to conduct an inquiry into the 'encounter' killing of the four accused in the rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad.
"The commission will complete the inquiry in six months...and the chairman of the commission shall fix the first date hearing at Hyderabad," said a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices SA Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna.
The Supreme Court also stayed proceedings initiated by Telangana High Court and National Human Rights Commission into the Hyderabad encounter. The top court said that no other courts should entertain any plea pertaining to the case.
The top court grilled senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the Telangana government, on many aspects of the alleged encounter of the accused by the state police, and emphasised there should be an independent and unbiased inquiry into this incident.
The Chief Justice queried Rohatgi on the details of the circumstances which led to the police firing at the accused. "Why were the police officials, accompanying the accused to the crime scene, carrying loaded guns...why did the accused attack the policemen with stones, when they had snatched arms...Were they history sheeters?" said the Chief Justice in a volley of questions.
The state government counsel said the accused attempting to escape from the police custody attacked the policemen with stones, and the policemen fired in retaliation.
The apex court also asked the state officials to show the medical report of the injured policemen in the incident. "Why would they use stones, if they have pistols? Where is the cartridge? Who recovered it? Where are all those things kept?" reiterated the Chief Justice.
The Chief Justice asked Rohatgi, "Are you prosecuting the policemen?" He replied, no, as there is no reason to prosecute them at this moment. Chief Justice replied, "People should know the truth. We may order their prosecution right away. Don't resist an inquiry."
The Chief Justice said that the trial against accused in this case is of no consequence since all four are dead now. "They can't present their case at all. The policemen will give their evidence. Be more fair... otherwise the trial will end up being a mockery," said the Chief Justice.
The court observed that a suggestion was to restrain the media from publicising the proceedings of the inquiry commission and making comments in relation to the inquiry. "We accordingly issue notice to Press Council of India," said the court.
Encounter of accused
All four men accused in the gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in Telangana were shot dead in an encounter when they were trying to escape custody on December 6.
The accused were taken to the scene of the crime near Shadnagar town, about 50 km from Hyderabad, for a reconstruction of the incident when they tried to escape and the police officers' gun, police have confirmed.
They were gunned down at the same spot where the accused had dumped the victim's body and set it afire on the night of November 27 after the gang-rape near Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Encounter an act of self-defence
After the encounter, Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar, IPS briefed the media over the shootout.
Commissioner Sajjanar said that the four accused, Mohammed Arif (26) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20), and lorry cleaners Jollu Shiva (20) and Jollu Naveen (20), had been in police custody for ten days and were interrogated by the police.
According to the commissioner, there were around ten police personnel with the accused during the time of encounter. The police have also seized two weapons from the accused. "We have recovered the victim's cell phone from the spot," he added.
The commissioner also said that the accused were involved in many other crimes in Karnataka and an investigation is on over this. He told media that the encounter shows that the law has done its duty. The body of the accused has been shifted to a local government hospital for post-mortem.
Talking about the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) taking cognizance of the encounter, Sajjanar said, "We will answer to whoever takes cognizance, Telangana government, NHRC and to all concerned". The human rights body said the encounter is a matter of concern and needs to be probed carefully.
After the accused confessed to the crime, they were taken to the site where Disha's body was dumped to reconstruct the scene.
The encounter took place between 5.45 am-6.15 am. "When we reached the spot the accused attacked us using stones and managed to snatch our guns. You can see that the accused are still lying there with the weapons. As a result, we had to engage in an encounter with them in which they were shot dead," he said.
(With agency inputs.)