The Supreme Court Thursday ordered a judicial inquiry into the killing of four men accused of raping and murdering a veterinary surgeon in a police encounter in Hyderabad. A commission headed by its former judge V S Sirpurkar has been given six months from the date on which it starts inquiry to complete the process.
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, said, “We are of the considered view that there should be an inquiry. Let there be an impartial inquiry. There are aspects of your version that needs probing.” The bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, was hearing a PIL by Advocates G S Mani and Pradeep Kumar Yadav.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is representing the state of Telangana, narrated the sequence of events that took place on December 6. He said the four accused were identified from CCTV footage at the toll plaza and there was no dispute about identity. He also added that the accused were killed in retaliatory firing after two of the accused opened fire from pistols snatched from the police personnel.
Rohatgi also informed the court that an SIT headed by a Commissioner of Police has already been appointed. He also said that the National Human Right Commission has already started investigation suo motu. “I am not opposing. Just saying probe has already begun,” said Rohatgi to which CJI Bobde said, “We are not concerned with the investigation. The result of the investigation will have to be evaluated by a committee. And that committee will evaluate and will submit a report. That’s all.”
Expressing apprehensive about a separate inquiry, Rohatgi said, “That will be against the law. There can’t be two parallel inquiries.” CJI Bobde, however, sharply reacted to it saying people must know the facts of the encounter. “If you are saying you are going to prosecute them and a criminal court will go into it, there is nothing for us to do. If not, people should know the facts. So a committee will go into it.”
“We don’t want to assume facts. This is a question of credibility. Why are you resisting an inquiry? We expect you to be more statesmanlike in this. We are not saying you are guilty. We are not saying you are wrong. At this stage, we don’t know anything,” said Bobde.
The bench had on Wednesday said that it proposed to order an inquiry by a retired judge of the apex court. He added that the judge, if and when appointed, will conduct the inquiry from Delhi and asked the parties to suggest names. CJI Bobde said the court had already checked with Justice (retired) P V Reddy, but it did not come through.
The petitioners have alleged that the encounter was “fake” and that it “was conducted only to divert the public reaction over sensational gang rape and murder cases against innocent young girls and maybe to protect the real culprits which are very serious, painful and not only impermissible under the rule of law but such fake encounter killing amounts to pre-planned murders in the hands of police official…”.