Remember the Hyderabad gang rape case of a doctor in November 2019 – #JusticeForDisha? After huge outrage, the alleged accused were encountered by police within few days of the incident and subsequently, there was cheer in social media hailing the men in uniform as Singhams & Simbas.
Now, in a turn of events on Friday, a Supreme Court-appointed committee held that this 2019 encounter at Hyderabad was fake and recommended that the 10 police officers be tried for murder for killing of four rape and murder accused.
A 26-year-old veterinarian was kidnapped, gangraped and murdered by the accused on November 27, 2019, at Chattanpally in Shadnagar on the outskirts of Hyderabad. The police said that the accused later burned her body.
Accused Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, Jollu Shiva, and Jollu Naveen were arrested after the gang rape and murder of the doctor.
Later on December 6, 2019, the accused were taken to the spot to recover articles belonging to the victim. While at the site, the four attacked the police with sticks and stones and tried to snatch their guns, the police claimed. The officers opened fire in self defence killing all four, they claimed.
As news of the alleged encounter spread, a crowd had gathered on the flyover overlooking the site on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway, and had showered rose petals and flowers on the police officials below.
Members of the youth organisation of the ruling TRS, and others such as NSUI and ABVP from the Shadnagar area had also organised the flowers.
Probe Into Encounter
On December 12, 2019, staying proceedings on the case in the Telangana High Court, the Supreme Court constituted the three-member Commission to probe the incident and submit a report within six months — it later extended the deadline.
Apart from retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Sirpurkar, the Commission included former Bombay High Court judge Justice Rekha Sondur Baldota and former CBI director D R Karthikeyan.
Supreme Court Panel Report
On May 20, 2022, the panel concluded that the police version claiming that the accused snatched pistol and tried to escape was unbelievable and not backed by evidence. The panel remarked,
In our considered opinion, the accused were deliberately fired upon with an intent to cause their death and with the knowledge that the firing would invariably result in the death of the deceased suspect.
The Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, rejected submissions by Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Telangana police, that the report be kept in the sealed cover.
The commission submitted that the report was delayed as they could not physically undertake site visit and enquiry during COVID.
The commission also noted in the report that two of the accused, Jollu Shiva and C Chennakeshavulu, were minors at the time of the incident, based on their school records.
The Commission recommended that ten police officers and personnel be tried under IPC sections 302 (murder) read with 34 (common intent), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence, providing false information) read with 302, and 34. The ten accused police officers are:
- V Surender
- K Narasimha Reddy
- Shaik Lal Madhar
- Mohammed Sirajuddin
- Kocherla Ravi
- K Venkateswarlu
- S Arvind Goud
- D Janakiram
- R Balu Rathod
- D Srikanth
Referring to the police’s argument in the case, the report stated,
There did not arise any occasion for exercising the right of private defence.
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, attempting to escape from custody, assaulting and firing at the police party.
The report added,
In view of the fact that the Commission has disbelieved that the deceased suspects assaulted the policemen and attempted to escape, the actions of the police officers in deliberately firing at the deceased suspects, is not justified in light of Sections 46 Cr.P.C. r/w 60 Cr.P.C.
In view of the fact that the Commission has disbelieved that the deceased suspects fired upon the policemen, the actions of the police officers in deliberately firing at the deceased suspects, is not justified in light of Section 149 Cr.PC.
Family of Victim (doctor) Backs Police
As per a report by The Indian Express, a close relative of the deceased veterinarian told media,
We are not yet fully aware of all the recommendations of the Commission but we support the police officials.
Statement From Father Whose Son Was Encountered
Jollu Rajaiah, the father of Jollu Shiva, one of the accused in rape and murder case who was encountered, told The Indian Express,
It is difficult to accept that my son committed such a heinous crime. What if he had not?”
Rajaiah, a daily wage labourer, added,
If my son committed the crime, he should have been brought to justice legally. He was a minor. This Commission’s recommendation to punish the officials at least proves that the boys did not attack the police and they were shot dead without any chance of going to court.
The truth is out. I hope the courts also recommend that the four families receive some compensation because we have lost our breadwinners.
- Rape (& murder) are heinous crimes and under no circumstances, one can justify actions of the perpetrators
- The outrage in social media could be explained to an extent, because it is only human to feel angry at such instances
- However, should we as a society, hail encounters by police?
- What if social media pressure compels men in uniform to catch hold of any random man and hold him responsible for the alleged crime?
- The legal system is India is very slow, and there is no denial at all about this open fact
- However, if encounter trends are encouraged, we will be risking lives of innocent (particularly poor) men, who could be picked up and encountered, only to set examples
- The vindication of victim doctor’s family is understandable at an emotional level, but cannot be turned into a norm
- We also do not support any perpetrator taking shelter, on pretext of being a minor
- However, we are only pointing out, how everyone deserves fair hearing in a court of trial and that justice cannot and should not be defined by random on the spot killings
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