The Supreme Court Wednesday approved Uttar Pradesh government's draft notification for appointing former apex court judge Justice (retd) B S Chauhan as chairman of the 3-member inquiry commission on the killing of eight policemen and the subsequent encounter killings of gangster Vikas Dubey and five of his alleged associates.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde directed that the inquiry commission should start functioning within a week and the probe be concluded within two months.
The other two members of the inquiry commission would be former high court judge Justice (retd) Shashi Kant Agarwal and retired Director General of Police of Uttar Pradesh K L Gupta.
The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, cleared the draft notification and asked the Uttar Pradesh government to notify it.
'We direct that the notification constituting the Commission and incorporating the Terms of Reference as approved by us, shall be issued immediately. The Commission shall sit at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and start functioning within a period of one week from today,' the bench said in its order.
'It is made clear that the secretarial assistance for the Commission shall be provided by the Central Government, from such services/departments as may be directed by the Chairman of the Commission,' the bench said.
The apex court was hearing a batch of petitions which have sought court-monitored probe into encounters of Dubey and five of his alleged associates.
Some of the pleas have also sought probe into the killing of eight policemen, including Deputy Superintendent of Police Devendra Mishra, who were ambushed in Bikru village in Chaubeypur area of Kanpur when they were going to arrest Dubey and fell to bullets fired from rooftops shortly after midnight on July 3.
In its order, the bench said that commission shall submit a report to the apex court and the state government 'in accordance with the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, within a period of two months from the date on which the Commission starts functioning'.
'Needless to mention that any party to the present petitions may apply to the inquiry commission for being heard,' it said.
The bench also directed that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which has already been constituted by the Uttar Pradesh government, 'will be free to inquire into any of the related incidents which are the subject matters of the case'.
'List the matter thereafter along with the report of the Commission,' it said.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court last week, the UP government had said that it has constituted a three-member SIT, headed by UP additional chief secretary Sanjay Bhoosreddy on July 11, to look into the crimes committed by the dreaded gangster and the alleged collusion between Dubey, police and politicians.
The bench noted in its order that during the hearing through video-conferencing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Uttar Pradesh government, has 'displayed on the computer screen, the draft of a notification appointing an independent three-member commission to inquire into the incidents' mentioned in the petitions.
It noted that as per the draft of the revised notification, the commission is to comprise of Justice (retd) Chauhan, Justice (retd) Agarwal and former DGP Gupta.
'The proposed terms of reference of the said commission were also read out for the benefit of the court as well as the counsel appearing in the matter. After hearing all the counsel, certain modifications were suggested and they were agreed to be carried out,' the bench noted.
During the hearing, the apex court observed that scope of investigation to be conducted by the inquiry commission should be wide enough.
The bench said the top court is not in favour of "tying the hands" of the commission and it will not be wise to have a term of reference for it.
The bench asked Mehta to look into the names of other gangsters, provided by one of the petitioners, and ensure that similar incidents of such encounters and killing of cops do not recur.
Mehta informed the bench that Justice (retd) Chauhan has given his consent to be a part of the inquiry commission.
Mehta told the bench that the commission would also probe the circumstances under which Dubey, who was facing 65 FIRs, was released on bail.
Dubey was killed in an encounter in the morning of July 10 when a police vehicle carrying him from Ujjain to Kanpur met with an accident and he tried to escape from the spot in Bhauti area, the police had said.
Prior to Dubey's encounter, five of his alleged associated were killed in separate encounters.
On June 20, the apex court had said that it is a 'failure of the institution' that a person like Dubey got bail despite several cases lodged against him.
It had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to consider having a former apex court judge and a retired police officer in the inquiry committee probing the encounter.
It had told the state government that they have to 'uphold rule of law'.
It had suggested changes in the inquiry panel and sought a draft resolution from the state government by Wednesday.
The Uttar Pradesh government, in an affidavit filed in the apex court in the matter, had said that the police party escorting Dubey from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh to Kanpur had to 'fire back in self-defence' as he had tried to escape and was killed.