More than a decade after the brutal murder of Ayesha Meera in Andhra Pradesh, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is presently re-investigating the sensational case, is facing a hurdle.
Ayesha Meera, a 17-year-old pharmacy student from Vijayawada, was brutally killed on December 27, 2007. Her body was found outside the toilet on the second floor of the Sri Durga Ladies Hostel in Ibrahimpatnam, where she was staying.
The SIT, which revisited the spot of the crime and cross-checked documents and material evidence collected from the scene, had earlier asked for a narcotic test to be conducted on seven suspects.
The SIT said that it wanted to conduct tests on the hostel warden, Inampudi Padma, her husband Siva Ramakrishna, Ayeshaâ€™s roommates Sowmya and K Kavitha, and prime accused Koneru Satish Babu, Abburi Ganesh and Chintha Pawan Kumar.
Koneru Satish is the grandson of former Congress minister Koneru Ranga Rao.
According to media reports, the SIT wanted to conduct a narcoanalysis test and Brain Electrical Oscillating Signature Profiling Test (BEOSP) and send the results to a Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Gujarat.
However, only the hostel warden and her husband have agreed to the tests so far, after the Hyderabad High Court quelled their fears about their health being adversely affected if they take the test.
The rest of the accused, though promising to cooperate with the investigation, have not given their consent.
Speaking to TNM, lawyer Srinivas Rao who has been handling the case for several years, said, â€śSince the case is playing out in more than one state, there is a jurisdiction issue and Supreme Court guidelines have to be followed. Nothing can be done unless the accusedâ€™s written consent is submitted to a judicial magistrate without any coercion.â€ť
â€śTheir counsel is arguing that tests were conducted last time, which had proved their innocence. Since the investigation was found to not be up to the mark by the HC later, the SIT is arguing that a fresh test must be conducted,â€ť he added.
However, if the accused do not give their consent to the test, the SIT is yet to argue in court how it plans to take the case forward.
â€śThe SC issued the guidelines to ensure that the constitutional rights of all people are protected. However, the SIT must look at other options as well. We want to know if this is the only way the SIT can crack the case,â€ť Srinivas added.
While the case is being monitored by the High Court, it is being heard by the Fourth Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court (ACMM) in Vijayawada.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Ayeshaâ€™s mother, Shamshad Begum, said, â€śIf they are not giving their consent, that only shows that they are guilty. Each one of them knows who is responsible for my daughterâ€™s death. Even the SIT officials know, but just because they are not giving their consent, how can we drop the case?â€ť
â€śI request SIT not to stop the case if they do not give consent. I request them to properly investigate the case and try to get a conviction. We just want justice,â€ť she added.
Despite repeated attempts, Visakhapatnam Range Deputy Inspector General Ch Srikanth, who is leading the SIT, could not be contacted.
In August 2008, almost a year after Ayesha was killed and after the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) took up the case, the police arrested Satyam Babu.
Satyam Babu was arrested in a cell phone robbery case on August 17 that year and the police claimed that he had confessed to Ayeshaâ€™s murder during interrogation.
In 2010, the Mahila Sessions Court in Vijayawada sentenced him to life imprisonment for Ayeshaâ€™s rape and murder.
Ayeshaâ€™s parents had earlier alleged that relatives of minister Koneru Ranga Rao were involved in the murder and that the police had pinned the crime on Satyam Babu to misdirect the investigation.
In April 2017, Satyam Babu was acquitted by the Hyderabad High Court. The court also ordered action to be taken against the police officials who investigated the case.
The government had then decided to re-investigate the case and constituted the SIT.