Supreme Court orders judicial probe into Hyderabad encounter
The Supreme Court has ordered that the encounter of four men, accused of raping and killing a 26-year-old veterinary doctor on the outskirts of Hyderabad this month, will be probed independently. Chief Justice of India SA Bobde passed the order on Thursday after the top court was approached by two lawyers. The judicial inquiry will be headed by former SC judge Justice VS Sirpurkar.
To recall, the brutal assault of the doctor jolted the entire nation. As citizens raised questions on women's safety, took to streets, and built pressure on the cops, the police shot the accused in an "encounter". The four, Mohammed Areef, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen Kumar, and Chintakunta Chenna Keshavulu, were taken to the crime spot and after they allegedly attacked cops, they were killed.
The quick justice (?) made people happy and earned accolades for the police (they were showered with petals), but also raised concerns about the overriding of due process. Rights activists slammed the police for not giving the judicial process a chance. A day after the killings, CJI Bobde also said, "I believe justice loses its character as justice if it becomes revenge."
Subsequently, lawyers GS Mani and Pradeep Kumar Yadav filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking an independent probe into the killings. The lawyers suggested that retired judge Justice PV Reddy should be at the helm of the probe, but they were informed by CJI Bobde that he is unavailable. Yesterday, CJI Bobde asked the Telangana government to suggest a name.
On Wednesday, the petitioners reportedly argued that cops performed the encounter to divert attention from their laxity. They claimed mannerisms of IPS officer VC Sajjanar during the press briefing hinted he had no regrets about it. They said the right to life is enshrined in the Constitution and even the state can't take that away. Further, they also expressed fear of tampering of evidence.
After hearing their arguments, CJI Bobde posted the matter for today. In court, the Telangana government was represented by senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi. When CJI Bobde suggested running a parallel probe, Rohatgi said that's against the law as an eight-member SIT, set by the state government, is already probing the deaths. He also reminded that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is also investigating it.
CJI Bobde also said he is not labeling the police guilty, as little is known about the case at this stage. However, when advocate ML Sharma suggested giving compensation to kin of accused, he said, "We can't close our eyes to what they might have done." Noting that certain aspects of the state's stand need probe, the apex court gave the order.
Apart from Justice Sirpurkar, the panel also includes former Bombay High Court judge Justice Rekha Prakash Sondur Baldota and ex-CBI director DR Karthikeyan. The bench, including Justices SA Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, gave the panel six months to submit their report. Now that the commission has been constituted, the investigations by SIT and NHRC will discontinue.