Telangana encounter deaths: SC orders judicial inquiry

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a judicial inquiry into the alleged encounter of four rape accused men in Hyderabad on morning on December 6.

 

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde ordered the probe while hearing two public interest litigations seeking an independent probe into the deaths of the four accused in the Hyderabad veterinarian gangrape and murder case last week.

Retired SC judge VS Sirpurkar will be heading the three-member panel which will investigate the encounter. The commission will sit in Hyderabad and investigation has to be completed within six months, the court directed. Other members of the investigation team include former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Prakash Baldota and former CBI chief Kartikeyan

The State of Telangana has been directed to provide all the facilities relating to travel, lodging and boarding, among others as well as security for the members of the probe Commission, according to a report in Bar & Bench.

One of the petitioners in the case, advocate ML Sharm, had also sought a media gag in the case. However, the Court which was prima facie not inclined to gag the media, has issued notice to the Press Trust of India and the Press Council of India on the question of restraining the media coverage.

The Court has restrained any other Court or authority from conducting an inquiry in the matter pending the report of this Commission or till any further orders passed by the Supreme Court itself.

The State of Telangana, represented by Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, was reluctant to set up an independent probe in the matter. Rohatgi submitted that in compliance with the PUCL judgment of the Supreme Court, an SIT has been constituted by the State of Telangana and that this SIT is headed by an IPS officer of the rank of commissioner of Police.

Rohatgi submitted before the Court that First Information Reports (FIR) had been registered by the Police against the deceased accused persons on the charge of attempted murder. He submitted further, that the Police officers fired in retaliation after being attacked by the accused men, two of whom had even snatched the arms from two police officers present at the site.

CJI SA Bobde, unimpressed with this submission, said, "... you are attempting to scuttle the inquiry by saying there will be a trial (against the dead accused). There is no prosecution witness for your trial. This is not a trial. This is a matter of credibility...

...The trial you're talking about will have no consequence. There is no accused, there can't be conviction and no sentence. It will only be your defence. Who will say that you didn't do anything, on whose evidence? This trial will be a mockery," the chief justice was quoted by Bar & Bench as saying.

The Court said that it is not saying anything regarding the guilt at this stage since all the facts of the encounter case are yet not known. The Court has therefore directed for the probe Commission to conduct an independent probe in the matter, while observing that the SIT investigation may carry on simultaneously.

As per reports, the four men accused of having raped and murdered 26 years of 'Disha' were taken to the scene of the crime around 60 Km from Hyderabad "for a re-construction as part of the investigation" in the early hours of December 6. According to the police personnel, one of them signaled to the others, possibly to escape and they further tried to snatch weapons from the police. At this point, the police fired at the accused persons, leading to their death.

Two PILs were subsequently moved in the Supreme Court, one by Advocates Mani and Yadav, and another by Advocate ML Sharma. The PILs have registered an objection to the extra-judicial killing of the four accused in the Telangana rape and murder case in the when the guilt of the accused was yet to be proved.

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