Rights

Hyderabad Rape Case Now 'Closed' but Does Police Really Know Who All Were Involved?

Most of the evidence was circumstantial – media reports indicate that police had little by way of either mobile phone details or direct eyewitnesses.

New Delhi: Was the ‘encounter’ killing of the four men accused of the rape and murder of Hyderabad veterinary doctor ‘Disha’ on Friday morning based on hard evidence that linked them to the case?

This is a question which desperately needs to be answered as the men were the only suspects and the case has now effectively been closed after the Hyderabad police killed them during an alleged escape attempt.

While the police claim to have recovered the victim’s mobile phone, gold chain and a part of her jeans some 500 metres from where her body was burnt, one petrol station employee has been presented as a witness. Though the witness never saw the actual crime take place, he is said to have established that two of the accused men attempted to buy petrol.

Apart from this piece of circumstantial evidence, the police, as per local media reports, did not have any witnesses to the crime and had not received the results of DNA evidence sent for testing.  The extent of CCTV video footage, if any, linking the accused to the crime is also not clear.

Even if the four men did perpetrate the heinous crime, it is not clear how the police was able to establish with certainty that there weren’t any other perpetrators or accomplices involved in the rape or the destruction of evidence.

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

Anatomy of the case

After the charred body of the 27-year-old victim was found at Chatanpally bridge near Shadnagar town in Rangareddy district on November 27, the police identified her as an assistant veterinarian of a state-run hospital.

Soon after, Cyberabad police commissioner V.C. Sajjanar took the lead in the investigation. He later told the media about the arrest of the four accused in the case – Mohammed Arif, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen Kumar and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu. One of the accused was a lorry driver and another a cleaner. All the accused were booked under Sections 376D (gang rape), 302 (murder), and 201 (destroying evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.

According to the police, the four were drinking near the Tondupalli toll plaza when they noticed the victim parking her bike nearby. Since two wheelers are not allowed on the Outer Ring Road, residents usually park there before travelling ahead by cabs or city buses.

The police claimed that the accused immediately plotted to rape the victim and deflated her scooter’s tyres. When the victim returned from work and found the tyres punctured, she called her sister around 9:40 pm. She later messaged her sister to tell her that a stranger had offered to help and after that her phone was switched off. However, the victim had not provided any names in the conversation.

Also read: Telangana Encounter Live: Expressing Caution, BJP Says India ‘Not a Banana Republic’

The police said that the accused forcibly took the victim away. Sajjanar stated that “as per the post-mortem reports” she had been “gang raped and tortured before they strangled and killed her in an empty plot”. He had also stated that the accused first tried to break into an empty shed and then attempted to push her through its window, but failed to do so. They then decided to commit the crime in the open, the police said.

Burnt with kerosene or petrol?

After the victim died, the accused, as per the police, took her body and her two-wheeler in a lorry. The police said they removed the licence plates and left the vehicle 40 km from the rape spot. At a bridge near Shadnagar town, Sajjanar claimed that the accused “wrapped her body in a bed sheet, poured kerosene and burnt her. They left the body there and escaped.”

Later, however, the police brought in a petrol-pump worker as a witness to state that the accused had tried to purchase petrol in plastic bottles from a station but were rebuffed.

Another media report, however, stated that the accused did indeed buy fuel from this filling station. Nevertheless, it added that the staff informed the police about it. NDTV reports that after one petrol station refused to sell them petrol, the accused managed to buy some at another station.

Remand report cites witness 

The remand report in the case stated that Lingaram Praveen Goud, a worker at the petrol pump from where the accused allegedly went to buy petrol, helped the police crack the case. It said on hearing about the rape on TV, he dialled the emergency response number (100) and told the police that he would be able to help in identifying the accused.

“He informed the police that two of the accused came on a red scooter and asked for petrol in plastic bottles. He immediately turned them down as he felt suspicious about it. This testimony from Praveen helped the police arrange all the events, crack the case and reach the accused,” the media reported.

This remand report also stated that it was Jollu Shiva who took the scooter from the victim on the pretext of repairing the flat tyre. But while he was pretending to be repairing it, the other accused pulled her into the bushes and raped her. They also made her forcibly consume alcohol when she began shouting. The report said the victim died due to asphyxiation as the accused forcefully closed her mouth and nose. Shiva was also accused of necrophilia.

Mobile phone found but not linked to accused

It has also been reported that the accused removed the SIM card from the victim’s mobile phone and threw it and her purse in the fire. This report also stated that the accused had snatched her mobile phone and switched it off before dragging her to the open plot.

The police later said that they recovered the victim’s mobile phone about 500 metres from where her body was burnt. They claimed it was a vital piece of evidence but were yet to link it to any of the accused by way of calls, fingerprints, etc.

Also read: Leading Women Lawyers Slam Hyderabad Encounter, Ask for Police Accountability

A section of the media also reported how the police was hopeful of getting a recording from the phone since it had an “automatic voice recorder”. This reasoning is strange since the police has itself said that the accused had distracted here, which would mean the victim had no reason to suspect them in the first place.

Truck found with blood stains, DNA matching report awaited

Similarly, the police has claimed to have recovered the truck in which the victim’s body was transported by the culprits. Some bloodstains and hair samples have been taken from there, reports said, adding that these have been sent to a forensic lab in order to to see if the accused were linked with the crime.

The four men were being interrogated by a team led by Shamshabad deputy commissioner N. Prakash Reddy in Chenchalguda jail.