A Supreme Court appointed panel on Friday found that the alleged encounter of the four accused in the gang rape of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad in November 2019, was fake and that the accused were "deliberately fired upon to cause death'. The panel also noted that three of the four arrested accused were minors, contrary to the claims made by the police.
In November 2019, a 26-year-old veterinary doctor was kidnapped, gang raped and later burnt in Hyderabad, Telangana. The police arrested four people who were later shot dead by a Hyderabad police in an alleged encounter, days after their arrest and while still in police custody.
The police claimed that the four accused - Mohammed Arif, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu - were killed after allegedly attempting to flee on the way to the same highway where the charred body of the victim was found. Following the deaths of the accused, there was widespread praise on social media for the police, with many calling it an act of swift justice. But there were also demands to prosecute the police for the extra judicial killings.
The SC inquiry panel headed by former Supreme Court judge VS Sirpurkar was set up on December 12, 2019 to inquire into the alleged killing and encounter of the accused. The Commission also included former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Sondur Baldota and former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, DR Karthikeyan.
The Sirpurkar Commission pointed out glaring discrepancies and lapses in the investigation by the police and found the allegations of the police that the accused were shot dead when they attempted to flee as untrue. The Commission stated, "the accused were deliberately fired upon with an intent to cause their death and with the knowledge that the firing would invariably result in the death of the deceased suspect"
The three member commission in its report also said that unlike what was claimed by the Hyderabad police, three of the four accused were minors at the time of the commission of the crime and during their deaths and that the police were aware of the same. The panel stated, "This clearly suggests that the police were well aware about the school records of Jollu Shiva and Chennakeshavulu...Therefore, we are of the opinion that at the relevant time, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu were minors."
In its 387 page report to the SC, the panel stated that the police officers involved in the alleged encounter should be tried for murder for firing at the accused. The panel stated, "their contention that they fired in good faith at the deceased suspects has been disbelieved. Good faith, which is an essential pre-requisite...is found to be clearly absent."
The panel further added that the police violated several rights and sections of the National Human Rights Commission, Telangana Police Manual and former SC order in dealing with the accused.
The panel found, "...it also came to light that the constitutional and statutory rights of the deceased suspects at the time of their arrest and remand to judicial and police custody appear to have been violated" and "the deceased suspects, at the time of arrest, were entitled to a number of constitutional and statutory rights that were violated by the police personnel.
The panel in its report also pulled up the Magistrate saying that there have been several violations and discrepancies found in the way the accused were granted police custody. "It is evident that there are several irregularities as the proceedings conducted by him do not conform to the duties categorically recognised and cast upon the court of magistrate..." stated the panel in its report.
The panel called the allegations made by the police that the deceased accused attempted to flee, threw stones at them and also fired a gun injuring two policemen as false. The panel stated, "In our opinion, it is not a case of mere contradictions and the allegation of assault is inherently improbable and false to the core." and added, "For all the circumstances stated above, we find that the claim that the deceased suspects assaulted the policemen, that the two policemen sustained injuries as a result and that they were treated at hospitals is false."
The panel further said that the police were responsible for the safe keeping of the four accused and that they, failed to fulfil their responsibility. The panel said the acts or omissions in this regard showed, "their common intention to cause the deaths of the deceased suspects."