A Supreme Court-appointed Commission of Inquiry probing the alleged encounter killing of four suspects in the gang-rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Hyderabad in 2019 has found they were 'deliberately' fired upon by the police and that the entire version of the cops was 'concocted' and 'unbelievable'.
The three-member probe panel headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice V S Sirpurkar also recommended that the 10 police personnel involved in the encounter be tried for murder.
It opined that three of the four suspects in the sensational case were minors at the time of death.
It said all the 10 police personnel must be tried for the offences under Section 302 (murder) r/w 34 Indian Penal Code, 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence) 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.
There was no immediate reaction from the police.
'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 suspects,' said the Commission report which was submitted to the Supreme Court.
The report further said that all the injuries to the deceased are all above waist on the vital organs and all the entry wounds are on the front side and exit wounds are on the back side.
Making certain recommendations as to what should be followed, the Commission said that 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 387-page report of the Commission was made public on Friday shortly after the Supreme Court rejected a plea of the Telangana government to keep the document in a sealed cover.
The court then directed the Sirpurkar panel's secretariat to share with the parties the sealed cover report and transferred the matter to the high court for further action.
'This relates to the encounter case. There is nothing to keep here. The Commission has found someone guilty. We want to send the matter to the high court,' said a bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli.
'We have to send the case back to the high court, we cannot monitor this case. A detailed report is submitted. Question is what is the proper action to be taken. They have made some recommendations,' the bench said, adding, 'We direct the Commission secretariat to provide a copy of the report to both parties...'.
According to the Cyberabad Police, on the night of November 27, 2019 the four suspects kidnapped the woman veterinarian and killed her after sexually assaulting her, and then shifted the body in a lorry to Chattanpalli on a highway near Hyderabad where it was burnt under a culvert.
The suspects Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, Jollu Shiva and Jollu Naveen were arrested two days later.
They were killed in police firing on December 6, 2019 at Chattanpalli when they were taken to the scene of crime near the culvert, under which the charred remains of the 25-year-old veterinarian were found on November 28, to recover her phone, wrist-watch and other items pertaining to the case.
The Cyberabad police had said its personnel resorted to 'retaliatory' firing after two of the accused opened fire at police after snatching their weapons besides attacking the latter with stones and sticks, resulting in injuries to two policemen
The family members of the four suspects demanded stringent punishment to the policemen involved in the 'fake' encounter.
"We had earlier told the Commission that they were killed in a fake encounter. We have been saying that it was a fake encounter," said Rajappa, father of Jollu Shiva.
Hussain, father of Mohammed Arif. said police personnel who were responsible for his son's death should be punished as they did a grave mistake. "Justice has to be done."
Residents of nearby villages where the alleged encounter took place had showered flowers on policemen hailing their action as 'instant justice'.
The Commission concluded that there are lot of discrepancies in the police version with regards to the two of the deceased throwing mud and soil at police, snatching weapons from the police and firing indiscriminately.
The record shows that the entire version of the police party beginning from the safe house to the incident at Chatanpally is 'concocted'. It was impossible for the deceased suspects to have snatched the weapons of the police and they could not have operated the firearms. Therefore, the entire version is unbelievable, the report opined.
During the reconstruction of the crime scene, the Police had claimed that the suspects were trying to flee.
It also came to light during the course of inquiry that the 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 report stated.
The Commission also found fault with the Judicial Magistrate who granted police custody of the deceased accused, citing that the law official did not insist for relevant documents from the police.
According to the panel, there is a grave suspicion that the best evidence in respect of CCTV footage, video recording of inquest and crime scene, etc has been withheld from the Commission.
Even as regards the claim of two policemen of having sustained injuries on the day of incident, the Commission found "multiple contradictions and absurdities."
Referring to the Ballistics Expert's opinion, the Commission said, it is not possible for an untrained person to identify the safety switch and thereafter fire the weapon.
It is also not conceivable that within a short span of time, as alleged by the police, the deceased suspects snatched the weapons, cocked the pistol and used it to fire on the police personnel, the panel added.