New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a judicial inquiry into the Hyderabad encounter, where four men, accused of allegedly raping and murdering a city veterinarian, were killed.
The top court said that there will be a three-member team to probe the case and no other court or authority shall inquire into this matter until further orders of the apex court. The commission will be headed by former Supreme Court judge VS Sirpurkar and the two other two members who will be part of the panel are former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Baldota and former CBI chief B Kartikeyan.
They have been given six months to complete the investigation. The commission will sit in Hyderabad to complete the inquiry. The Telangana government has also been directed to provide security to the panel members, along with travel, lodging and boarding, the court stated in the order.
"We are of the considered view that an inquiry commission needs to be constituted. The inquiry to be completed in six months," the SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, said on Thursday.
"There must be unbiased inquiry of the encounter of the four accused," the top court further said.
The bench was hearing two petitions seeking registration of FIR against cops and an independent probe into the matter.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also issued a notice on the petition to restrain media from publishing proceedings before the commission.
Following the encounter, the state government also constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is also conducting a probe into the matter. The apex court has now ordered the proceedings before both the Telangana High Court and NHRC to be stayed till further orders.
The accused were killed in a police encounter, a week after the rape case was reported later in November. The veterinary doctor was allegedly raped and charred to death. Her body was dumped by the accused under a bridge on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
On December 6, the four accused - Mohammed Arif, Naveen, Shiva, and Chennakeshavulu - were taken to the crime spot for re-construction of events as part of the investigation by the police. During the process, the police said that they tried to escape from the spot and also attacked the cops by trying to snatch their weapons. Thus, the cops, in self-defense, they opened fire on the accused.
While a section of the people heaped praises on the police, others, including some politicians, questioned the action taken by the police.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Cyberbad Police, was told by the top court that there should be an independent and unbiased inquiry into this incident.
Chief Justice Bobde queried Rohatgi on the details of the circumstances which led to the police firing at the accused.
"Why were the police officials, accompanying the accused to the crime scene, carrying loaded guns. Why did the accused attack the policemen with stones when they had snatched arms. Were they history sheeters?" he asked.
The state government counsel said the accused attempting to escape from the police custody attacked the policemen with stones, and the policemen fired in retaliation.
The apex court also asked the state officials to show the medical report of the injured policemen in the incident. "Why would they use stones, if they have pistols? Where is the cartridge? Who recovered it? Where are all those things kept?" reiterated the Chief Justice.
The Chief Justice asked Rohatgi, "Are you prosecuting the policemen?" He replied, no, as there is no reason to prosecute them at this moment. Chief Justice replied, "People should know the truth. We may order their prosecution right away. Don`t resist an inquiry."
He said that the trial against accused in this case is of no consequence since all four are dead now. "They can`t present their case at all. The policemen will give their evidence. Be more fair... otherwise, the trial will end up being a mockery," Chief Justice Bobde said.
During the proceedings, the Chief Justice also observed that an inquiry into the matter should be conducted and people should know the truth.
"If you say you are going to prosecute them (policemen involved in an encounter) in criminal court, there is nothing for us to do. But if you say they are innocent then people must know the truth and there must be an inquiry," he said.