New Delhi, 7 December 2019 — The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) today called on the Telangana Police and state government to ensure exhaustive, impartial, and independent investigations into the police shooting of the four suspects in the Hyderabad gangrape and murder case. The state government and Telangana Police are accountable for the deaths caused, CHRI said.
The four suspects were shot dead by police personnel in the early hours of 6th December in the midst of a recreation of the crime scene of the gangrape, allegedly because they were attempting to escape. The Police Commissioner of Cyberabad, while addressing a press conference, said that the police acted in self-defence after the suspects snatched their weapons and opened fire at them. The police version, CHRI said, failed to explain the major operational breach of four unarmed suspects being able to overpower 10 armed police personnel.
“There must be prompt and independent investigations particularly to examine the use of force by the Telangana Police. These must be initiated immediately so as not to lose valuable evidence, and conducted in a thorough manner that meets the ends of substantive justice”, said SanjoyHazarika, Director of CHRI. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took suomoto notice and dispatched an inquiry team to Telangana on 6th December itself. Notably, the High Court of Telangana has issued directions to preserve the bodies of the victims until 9th December, videograph the post-mortem, and submit the video to the Mahbubnagar district judge.
The onus is on the state government and police to facilitate an enabling environment that assures these multiple accountability processes can proceed freely with no hindrances or interference.
CHRI urges the Telangana police and government to demonstrate accountability and ensure immediate registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against the police personnel involved. Telengana authorities must further ensure that the investigation is conducted by police outside the district (preferably by a special investigation team); that section 176(1-A) Code of Criminal Procedure inquiry is held at the earliest; that the crime scene, forensic evidence and the victims’ bodies are preserved.
In addition, CHRI says that
• the names and duty records of all police officers part of the police party must be secured as well as all relevant registers
• all the weapons/guns used and related evidence should be seized
• all wireless, vehicle log book records, and call detail records of all police personnel involved (in both planning and the events of 6th
December) are collated and examined
• the post-mortems are conducted and videographed as per NHRC guidelines
• that none of the implicated police personnel are promoted, given gallantry awards, or posted to some other locations.
Furthermore, guidelines of the Supreme Court given in PUCL vs. State of Maharashtra require any killing in an encounter to be independently investigated. Additionally, the NHRC guidelines require any death resulting from police action to be reported to it within 48 hours, followed by supplementary reports including the post-mortem, inquest, magisterial inquiry and forensic reports. The state government and police must strictly comply with both the Supreme Court and NHRC guidelines.
Lastly, CHRI demands that the implicated police personnel be immediately suspended pending investigation, and arrested as soon as prima facie grounds are made out.
“It is of serious concern that policymakers and others are championing the killings and there is no mention of the strict accountability required for the causing of death. This denies institutional responsibility, and bodes ill for the rule of law”, said Devika Prasad, Programme Head, Police Reforms, CHRI.