The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered judicial enquiry into the killings of four men accused of gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in an alleged encounter with Hyderabad police on December 6.
The probe will be headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice V S Sirpurkar. Ex Bombay HC judge Justice Rekha Baldota and former CBI Director Karthikeyan will be other members of the enquiry panel.
The panel must conclude its investigation within 6 months and submit report. It will have its seat at Hyderabad. The top court has also said that no other court or authority will conduct enquiry into the encounter killings till then. This means that the proceedings in the Telangana High Court and the suo moto enquiry by National Human Rights Commission on the issue are effectively stayed.
CJI S A Bobde, who headed the bench which ordered the probe, remarked that people had the right to know the truth and objective investigation was necessary.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Telengana Government in the PIL seeking independent probe into the killings.
Rohatgi told the bench that the four men had snatched the revolvers of the police and pelted stones at them, when they were brought to the crime scene for evidence on the wee hours of December 6. The police opened retaliatory fire in self-defence, he said. Rohatgi added that the the Telangana High Court has already taken cognizance of the incident. A suo moto inquiry by the National Human Rights Commission is also underway, he informed.
But the government is not opposed to an impartial inquiry into the incident, Rohatgi clarified.
This order was passed in the PIL petition filed by Advocate GS Mani and Pradeep Kumar Yadav, who sought registration of an FIR and subsequent action against the police personnel who were involved in an alleged encounter.
The petitioners, GS Mani and Pradeep Kumar Yadav, have placed great reliance on the 16 guidelines issued by the SC in PUCL case for probing police encounter killings.
As per police version, all four accused – namely Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, Jollu Shiva and Jollu Naveen – were taken to the scene of the crime around 60 Km from Hyderabad at about 3 AM on December 6 for a re-construction of crime scene. Reportedly, one of them signaled to the others, possibly to escape and they tried to snatch weapons from the police personnel when the police fired on them and they died allegedly in cross firing.
The petitioners alleged that it was an encounter staged to divert the public reactions against lapses on the part of the police which led to the gang rape and murder of the woman on November 28. The petitioners stated that the police had refused to take immediate action when the woman’s family complained about her missing and even told them that their daughter might have eloped with someone.
According to the petitioners, the body language of V C Sajjanar IPS during the press conference suggested that he had no regrets over the killing. The public are feting the police officials with garlands and sweets for the encounter. If such activities are allowed, there will be no meaning for rule of law, the petitioners stated.
The Telangana High Court had taken cognizance of the encounter based on a representation received by the office of the Chief Justice on December 6 evening. The Court directed vide recording of the post-mortem proceedings, and asked the State Government to preserve the dead bodies till Monday.
The National Human Rights Commission ha dalso taken suo moto cognizance of the killings and ordered spot inquiry.