3-member panel to probe Hyderabad encounter killings

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Hyderabad: In a major development Supreme Court of India on Thursday formed set up a three-member committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge VS Sirpurkar to probe the killing of four accused in Disha rape and murder case in a police encounter.

The other two members of the committee include former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court VN Rekha and former Director of Central Bureau of Investigation D R Karthikeyan.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde issued the orders for a judicial probe on two petitions. One of them was filed by advocates GS Mani and Pradeep Kumar Yadav and another by advocate ML Sharma seeking an independent investigation into the incident.

The Supreme Court division bench asked the panel to complete the investigation into encounter in six months and submit its report to the apex court.

At the same time the Supreme Court stayed the proceedings related to this case in all the other courts and stopped the probe by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Former advocate general Mukul Rohtagi appearing for Telangana state government vehemently opposed any probe saying there was no mala fide intention behind the encounter. “The guidelines evolved by the Supreme Court were already followed and the case was handed over to the CID”, he argued.

During the hourlong hearing on Thursday heated arguments were witnessed. Chief Justice of India did not agree with the arguments of the counsel for the state government and ordered a judicial probe.

The four accused Mohammad Arif, Chenna Kesavulu, Jollu Navin and Jollu Shiva, who were allegedly involved in the abduction, gang rape and murder of a veterinary doctor, were killed in an “encounter” on December 6. Police said they were taken to the scene of offence near Shadnagar in the outskirts of Hyderabad for re-enacting the crime as part of investigation. But they tried to escape by snatching the weapons from policemen and attacking them.

While the encounter killings were hailed by the various quarters and people showered floors on the police men involved in the incidents, the circumstances of the incident in the wee hours raised many questions and doubts.

The petitioners alleged that it was a fake encounter and the police took the law in its own hands to kill the suspects without prosecuting them in the court of law.

The victim of rape and murder was given the name of “Disha” by the Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar to keep her real identity hidden.

Disha incident had rocked the entire country and evoked an outcry from the people who demanded immediate justice by hanging the culprits.

According to the police the four accused including two lorry drivers and two cleaners abducted the 27 year old woman near a toll gate at Shamshabad, not far from International Airport, gang raped and killed her.

They later burnt her body in an under bridge on Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway.

Cyberabad police arrested the accused within 24 hours of the incident.

The latest turn of events has further increased the problems for the policemen involved in the encounter.

Specially the Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar was constantly under fire over the suspicious deaths. He was also present in the Supreme Court during the hearing of the case.

This has come close on the heel of a visit by the officials of NHRC from New Delhi to Hyderabad for a separate probe.

The NHRC officials also questioned the policemen involved in the encounter and posed questions about the circumstances in which the incident took place and why they had to take the accused in the wee hours to the scene of the crime.

Meanwhile, Telangana High Court heard a petition on Thursday on handing over the body of the four accused to their families for funeral.

The court citing the Supreme Court stay on any proceedings in the matter expressed its inability to take up the case till a clarification from the apex court.

It directed the Advocate General to approach the Supreme Court on whether the bodies can be handed over to their families.

After encounter the bodies were taken to Mahbubnagar district government hospital for post mortem.

However, the High Court later directed the bodies should be shifted to Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad and kept in air-conditioned mortuary.

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