Law

As Hyderabad Encounter Questions Mount, HC Wants Video of Killed Suspects' Post-Mortems

The high court has also said that the dead bodies of the four men must be preserved for three days, till the date of the next hearing.

New Delhi: After the National Human Rights Commission, the Telangana high court has now taken cognisance of the Telangana police killing four men accused of rape on Friday morning.

The men had been accused of raping and murdering a young veterinarian in Hyderabad.

The advocate-general was summoned and appeared before court after regular hours, at 8 pm on Friday.

Also read: Hyderabad Rape Case Now ‘Closed’ but Does Police Really Know Who All Were Involved?

The high court has also said that the dead bodies of the four men must be preserved for three days, till December 9. The advocate-general informed the court on Friday that the post-mortem was being conducted at the Government District Hospital in Mahaboobnagar, under the supervision of the hospital’s superintendent and a forensic team from Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad. The post-mortem is also being videographed.

The court has directed that the videos from the post-mortem be handed over to the principal district judge in Mahaboobnagar after the post-mortem is completed. The district judge will then hand those over to the registrar of the Telangana high court.

Also read: Seven Other ‘Encounters’ Suggest Telangana Police Is Using a Rehearsed Script

The matter has been listed again before the chief justice of the high court for the morning of December 9.

Court received a representation

The court received a representation to look into the case around 6 pm on Friday, requesting judicial intervention. The representation, signed by activists of various women’s rights and people’s organisations, says that it would be a “fallacy to even imagine that some kind of justice has been served by abandoning all due process and committing such killings”.

They add:

“Is it permissible for police personnel to play judge, jury, executioner and mete out fatal justice in this manner? Is the ‘satisfying of the collective conscience’ in such a brazenly unlawful and murderous way healthy for a democracy? This is absolute violation of rule of law and constitutional guarantees.”

They were of the opinion that the killing of rape and murder accused does not act as a deterrent against heinous crimes nor will they make women safer. “Preventing crimes against women involves a long, sustained and complex battle that has to be fought in, among other arenas, society, our homes, educational and work places,” they said.

Apart from preserving the bodies, which the court has already asked to be preserved, they wanted the court to intervene and direct the formation of a special team of forensic experts from states other than Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to undertake an independent examination. They also wanted the constitution of an independent court-monitored committee to registered FIRs in the case, apart from other demands. The full text of the representation follows below.

The National Human Rights Commission has also taken cognisance of the matter and has ordered an inquiry: “The commission is of the opinion that this matter is required to be probed very carefully. Accordingly, it has asked its director general (investigation) to immediately send a team for a fact-finding, on-the-spot investigation into the matter.”

The NHRC has already said that the incident indicated that the police were not “properly alert” and were not “prepared for any untoward activity” which resulted in the death of all four accused.

International Commission of Jurists issues statement

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) also issued a statement, asking the Indian government to conduct an “independent and impartial investigation into the apparently unlawful killings” of the four men.

While condemning the crime allegedly committed the four men, Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific director also said “the unlawful killing of suspects in custody helps no-one”. “It denies victims true justice, rewards unlawful behaviour by the police, and generally undermines the rule of law,” he said.

“The suspicious circumstances of these deaths in custody, and the history of the use of extrajudicial killings in India, demands a thorough, independent and impartial investigation,” said Rawski. “The nationwide alarm at the trend of sexual violence is completely warranted. However, celebrating the unlawful behaviour of police will not ultimately protect women from sexual violence or address their lack of access to justice.”

The ICJ urged the Indian government to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the killings by the police, in line with the Supreme Court’s decisions and India’s constitution and international obligations. It also asked the government to take immediate steps to address the lack of an effective response from police personnel to allegations of rape and sexual violence and to take “effective lawful measures to prevent the unacceptable attacks upon victims of rape and other sexual violence seeking a remedy in the courts”.

The full text of the representation filed by the activists.

To,
The Hon’ble Chief Justice,
High Court of Telangana,
Hyderabad

*Subject: Extra-judicial killing of four accused/suspects in the Hyderabad Rape and Murder Case – Seeking due process, legal action as per Orders of Apex Court and independent panel of autopsy surgeons to conduct post-mortem*

Hon’ble Sir,

We the undersigned representatives of various women’s rights and people’s organizations jointly address this complaint urgently with regard to the encounter killing this early morning (6th December) of the four accused/suspects in the Hyderabad Rape and Murder Case. The versions arising in
the media raise pertinent concerns of this being a staged encounter or even a case of custodial death.

As your Hon’ble self is aware, the gruesome rape and murder of Priyanka Reddy on 27th November has given rise to strong passions in society with several people even clamouring for the accused to be handed over for a public lynching. The police seem to have taken advantage of this sentiment to commit a deliberate and cold-blooded murder of the four men in their custody. As usual, they have trotted out the ludicrous version of ‘self-defence’.

It is clear that all the four accused/suspects were in police custody, thus completely unarmed, and in all probabilities handcuffed. The event of recreation of the events at the crime scene at 3 am in the morning raise further serious concerns into these extra-judicial killings.

Some of the media reports suggest that there were more than 50 police personnel present during the recreation of the events at the crime scene at 3 AM. 50 policemen failing to catch hold of 4 unarmed accused/suspects is beyond any logical comprehension. In any case, the log books and movement records of the police will establish the numbers with ease.

It would be a fallacy to even imagine that some kind of justice has been served by abandoning all due process and committing such killings. Is it permissible for police personnel to play judge, jury, executioner and mete out fatal justice in this manner? Is the ‘satisfying of the collective conscience’ in such a brazenly unlawful and murderous way healthy for a democracy? This is absolute violation of rule of law and constitutional guarantees.

Does the killing of rape and murder accused act as any kind of deterrent against heinous crimes? Are such killings going to make women safer? As women’s rights groups, we think not. Preventing crimes against women involves a long, sustained and complex battle that has to be fought in, among other arenas, society, our homes, educational and work places.

Endowing police with the sanction to commit murders of accused is no answer; they only distract and shield the State from accountability. And celebrating such killings amounts to inhumanity. Such acts are uncivilized, brutal and those police-men responsible for today’s crime must be brought to book. As women’s groups our challenge after today’s incident only intensifies.

We request that this Hon’ble Court to immediately monitor the case to ensure that the guidelines issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in PUCL versus State of Maharashtra in its judgement dated 23rd Sep, 2014 are being followed and send its own observer to elicit on the ground facts surrounding the encounter.

We reserve our right to come up with more information as the same reach us. Any delay at this stage in issuing an order by this Hon’ble Court will further enable state authorities to conduct a hurried post mortem and ensure that the bodies are cremated.

We, therefore, seek the urgent intervention of this Hon’ble Court, in this case of extra-judicial killing. In the probable absence of any independent witness in this case of killing, we request the Hon’ble Court through your good self to urgently intervene and to:

1. Immediately direct the Director General of Police of Telangana to pass orders to preserve the bodies of the four accused/suspects who were killed this early morning (December 6, 2019).

2. Immediately direct formation of a special team of autopsy surgeons preferably from New Delhi or from states other than Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, to undertake an independent video-graphing of the post-mortem.

3.Immediately direct formation of a special team of forensic experts preferably from New Delhi or from states other than Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, to undertake an independent examination.

4.Immediately constitute an independent court-monitored committee direct to examine the following –

a. FIRs registered in the case

b. General/Daily Diary register entry of the relevant police station, of the day of the incident

c. Wireless log book record of the relevant police station (or district police wireless HQ, where such log is maintained) of the day of incident

d. Log book records of the day, of government vehicles used by all police officers engaged in the said encounter

e. Call Details Records (CDR) of mobile phones used by the all police officers engaged in the encounter (date range; one week prior to date of encounter)

5. Ensure in all circumstances, compliance to the Supreme Court guidelines in the PUCL vs Union of India. It stated that the team conducting the investigation should at minimum, carry out the following processes, among others,

a. To recover and preserve evidentiary material, including blood- stained earth, hair, fibers and threads, etc., related to the death

b. It must be ensured that intact fingerprints of deceased are sent for chemical analysis. Any other fingerprints should be located, developed, lifted and sent for chemical analysis

c. Any evidence of weapons, such as guns, projectiles, bullets and cartridge cases, should be taken and preserved. Wherever applicable, tests for gunshot residue and trace metal detection should be performed

6. We also demand that all police personnel who participated in the killing of four accused be immediately arrested and prosecuted for the crime of homicide under Sec 302 IPC. The investigation into this case must be handed over to the CBI since the Telangana police cannot be trusted to be fair in the matter.

Given the urgency and importance of the case we also request you to kindly communicate the orders passed by the Hon’ble Court through telephone, fax and email to the concerned officials in the state of Telangana.

We look up to this Hon’ble Court’s immediate intervention in safeguarding women’s rights and civil liberties as ensured by the Constitution.

Thanking you.

Yours Sincerely,

1. Sajaya K, Independent Analyst and Social Activist
2. Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
3. Prof. Padmaja Shaw, Retired Professor, Osmania University.
4. Devi, Social and Cultural Activist
5. Jhansi,Progressive Organization of Women (POW)
6. Vimala Morthala, Women’s Rights Activist and Writer
7. Sandhya V, Progressive Organization of Women (POW)
8. Vijaya Bhandaru, Progressive Women Writers Association
9. Ashalatha, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
10. Syed Bilal, Human Rights Forum(HRF)
11. Suneetha Achyutha, Researcher
12. Varsha Bharghavi, Child Rights Activist
13. Khaleeda Parveen, Social Activist
14. Kaneez Fathima, Civil Rights Activist
15. Sanjeev, Human Rights Forum (HRF)

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