In an important development in the Hyderabad encounter case, the Supreme Court-appointed inquiry commission has refuted the claims of the Hyderabad police and concluded that the four accused were "deliberately fired upon by the police with an intent to cause their death" and with the knowledge that the firing would result in their death.
The Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice VS Sirpurkar to inquiry into the alleged Hyderabad encounter killings of December 2019 has found that the suspects died due to the injuries caused by the bullets fired by the police party, and the police party did not fire in self- defence or in a bid to re-arrest the deceased suspects.
Today, the Supreme Court had allowed to make the Commission report public, rejecting the demand of the State of Telangana that it should be kept confidential in a sealed cover.
Apart from Justice Sirpurkar, the Commission comprised former Bombay HC judge Justice Rekha Baldota and former CBI Director Karthikeyan. The Commission was constituted by the Supreme Court in December 2019 to inquire in to the alleged encounter killings of 4 persons accused of gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian doctor., which had caused huge public outrage.
Police Version Is Concocted & Unbelievable : Commission
The Commission has opined that the entire version of the police party is "concocted" and therefore is unbelievable.
"...it cannot be believed that the deceased suspects might have died due to the indiscriminate firing from the pistols allegedly snatched by them and it has to be held that all the deceased suspects died due to the injuries caused by the bullets fired by the police party. It cannot also be believed that the deceased suspects opened fire towards the police party".
"After considering the entire material on record, we conclude that the deceased have not committed any offence in connection with the incident on 06.12.2019, like snatching the weapons, attempt to escape from the custody, assaulting and firing at the police party".
The Commission has therefore said that all the 10 police officers are to be tried for murder and destruction of evidence in furtherance of common intention( offences under Section 302 r/w 34 IPC, 201 r/w 302 IPC and 34 IPC), as the different acts committed by each of them were done in furtherance of common intention to kill the deceased suspects.
Notably, the Commission also said that they cannot take shelter under the exception of private defence.
"Just as Mob Lynching is unacceptable, so is any idea of instant justice. At any point of time Rule of Law must prevail. Punishment for crime has to be only by the procedure established by law", the Commission observed in the report.
The opinion recorded by the Commission is as follows :
A)Shaik Lal Madhar, Mohammed Sirajuddin and Kocherla Ravi are liable to be tried for the offence under Section 302 IPC. These officers cannot take shelter under Section 76 IPC and Exception 3 to Section 300 IPC because their contention that they fired in good faith at the deceased suspects has been disbelieved. Good faith, which is an essential pre-requisite of Section 76 IPC and Exception 3 to Section 300 IPC, is found to be clearly absent.
B) All the 10 police officers i.e., V. Surender, K. Narasimha Reddy, Shaik Lal Madhar, Mohammed Sirajuddin, Kocherla Ravi, K. Venkateshwarulu, S. Arvind Goud, D. Janakiram, R. Balu Rathod and D. Srikanth, are to be tried for the offences under Section 302 r/w 34 IPC, 201 r/w 302 IPC and 34 IPC, as the above discussion would show that the different acts committed by each of them were done in furtherance of common intention to kill the deceased suspects.
Police was responsible for safe keeping of the accused
The Commission further observed :
"Each one of them(police officials) were responsible for the safe keeping of the four deceased suspects. If either by acts or omissions they failed to fulfil their responsibility, then their common intention to cause the deaths of the deceased suspects is established. Their conduct subsequent to the deaths of the deceased suspects in falsifying the record would indicate that not only did they act in furtherance of common intention to give false information in order to screen the offenders but also that, they all acted with the common intention to cause the deaths of the four deceased suspects. Res Ipsa Loquitor".
Three Deceased Accused Were Minors: Commission
Significantly, the inquiry commission also finds that three among the killed persons - Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu- were minors.
Not possible for the deceased suspects to have operated the firearms: Commission
According to the Commission, contrary to what was claimed by the police, the deceased suspects could not have fired pistols and in fact did not fire the pistols.
According to the commission, once the accused escaped and started running, as alleged, it would be highly improbable that they would fire towards the police party while running as they would either run away or stand and fire at the police party.
The Commission has observed that even if the accused could operate the firearms, their aim would only be to escape and they would not stand and enter into an exchange of fire with the police.
Therefore, it has to be held that the deceased suspects could not have fired and run away simultaneously, the commission has said.
Breach of SC's Judgement Regarding encounter Killings:
With regard to the State of Telangana's contention that all directions given by the Supreme Court in PUCL v. State of Maharashtra, with respect to encounter killings have been followed, the Commission has opined that the judgement has been followed in breach, and at best, there is only symbolic compliance.
Violation Of Constitutional & Statutory Rights Of Deceased: The Commission has stated constitutional and statutory rights of the deceased suspects at the time of their arrest and remand to judicial and police custody appear to have been violated.
The Commission has pointed out the following instances of violation of provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure, the NHRC Guidelines on arrest, the Telangana Police Manual and several Supreme Court judgments:
- The deceased were not arrested by police personnel bearing accurate, visible and clear identification of their names.
- The police personnel did not inform the factum of arrest to family members or friends named by the persons being arrested.
- The police personnel did not execute an arrest memo while making the arrest, but well after the deceased suspects were picked up from their villages.
- The deceased suspects were not made aware of the grounds on which the arrests were made and not given the right to meet an advocate of their choice during their interrogation.
Irregularities In Medical Examination & Serious Law Violations While Granting Police Custody: Commission
The Commission has also stated that the statutory provisions required to be complied at the time of the remand to judicial custody of the deceased suspects had been violated.
Further, irregularities pertaining to the conduct of medical examination of the deceased and serious violations of law at the time of granting police custody by the Judicial Magistrate have also been found.