Image Courtesy: thewire.in
The encounter took place allegedly in a cross fire between the accused and the police, when the police had taken the accused to the crime scene at 3 a.m. on December 6 for re-construction of the crime as part of investigation. The first response in terms of inquiry, came from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which issued a press release on the same day informing that it has taken suo moto cognizance of the case.
The Commission is of the opinion that this matter is required to be probed very carefully. Accordingly, it has asked its Director General (Investigation) to immediately send a team for a fact finding on the spot investigation into the matter. The team of the Investigation Division of the Commission headed by an SSP, was reportedly deployed immediately. The Commission said that the increasing number of cases of rapes and sexual assault on women across the country has forced it for intervene into this matter.
The Commission also noted that, “Death of four persons in alleged encounter with the police personnel when they were in their custody, is a matter of concern for the Commission. The Commission is aware that growing incidents of sexual assault and violence against the women has created an atmosphere of fear and anger amongst the public at large but loss of human lives even of a person arrested by the police under law, in such circumstances, would definitely give a wrong message to the society.”
A very pertinent point made by the Commission, which the larger public who is celebrating the Hyderabad police as heroes is that, “If, the arrested persons were actually guilty, they were to be punished as per law pursuant to the directions of the competent court”. The Commission also stated that there is lack of Standard Operating Procedure to immediately respond to panic situations by police and the Commission has time and again insisted upon law enforcement agencies to keep human rights angle in their view while dealing with the persons arrested by them or being kept in their custody.
Further, a petition was also filed by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and People’s Watch, both non-profit organizations seeking independent panel of autopsy surgeons to conduct post-mortem of the four accused deceased in extra-judicial killing by the police. The petition pleaded the Commission to monitor to ensure that the PUCL guidelines are being followed and send its own observer to elicit on the ground facts surrounding the encounter. The petition also sought the Commission’s intervention by directing DGP of Telangana to pass necessary orders to preserve bodies of the accused, to direct a special autopsy team from other states to undertake autopsy on videography, to direct the Commission’s investigation team to examine the FIR, diary entry of the police station, wireless logbook record of the police station and on of vehicles used by police officers engaged in the encounter of that day, call data records of mobile phones of those police officers and to retain and preserve all kinds of essential evidentiary material related to the case.
Telangana High Court
In a positive turn of events, even the judiciary has taken note of the incident and the Telangana High Court directed that the videographed autopsy of the 4 accused be handed over to District judge of Mahboobnagar in a CD or pen drive who will then hand it over to the Registrar General of the High Court. The bench also directed to preserve the dead bodies till December 9, which is the next hearing date.
A petition has also been filed before the Supreme Court by Advocate GS Mani and another, demanding probe by CBI (Central bureau of Investigation) or SIT (Special Investigation Team) or CID (Crime Investigation Department) against Cyberabad Commissioner of Police and others involved. The petition has urged the apex court to call for records of the case and direct inquiry as per the guidelines laid out in the PUCL vs. State of Maharashtra in 2014 which was about 90 encounter killings by Mumbai police between 1995 and 1997.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde told Live Law, “This appears to be an extra-judicial execution which is totally illegal. I will not even call it an encounter… Those who cheer and encourage such executions, may do well to recognize, that destruction of the rule of law, and descent into a police state, is not what this country is about.”
Another Senior Advocate Rebecca John while speaking to Live Law brought up the class angle while making a valid point, “These were four poor people. What if they had been politicians? What if the situation had been reversed and it was a poor woman who had been raped by affluential men? Would the same end have met them?”