Disha Commission likely to recommend prosecution of cops for killing accused

The Commission held hearings for 47 days between August 21, 2021 and November 15, 2021 and examined 57 witnesses.
The accused in the disha gang rape
The accused in the disha gang rape
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On January 28, 2022, the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the alleged encounter killing of the four accused in the gang rape and murder case of a woman veterinarian in Hyderabad in November 2019 submitted its report to the apex court. The three-member Commission, headed by former SC judge VS Sirpurkar, included former judge of Bombay High Court Justice RP Sondur Baldota and former CBI Director D R Kaarthikeyan. Sources have told TNM that there is a high probability that the Commission has proposed for the police personnel to be tried for murder of the four accused in an extra-judicial killing. 

The Commission was appointed on December 12, 2019, to inquire into the circumstances in which the four accused persons were killed while in police custody. The Commission of Inquiry collected various documentary records, including investigation records, forensic reports, post-mortem reports, photographs and videos concerning the scene of incident and others, the official release said.

During the Commission’s hearing, the counsel for the state of Telangana tried to convince the Commission that all directions laid down with respect to investigating extra-judicial or ‘encounter’ killings had been followed by the police officers. However, from the proceedings, it was highlighted that there were several lapses in regards to the laid down procedures. Taking into consideration all the lapses presented, it is very likely that the Commission will conclude that only symbolic compliance was noted in the procedures followed by the police personnel, sources said.

The counsel representing the families of the four deceased had tried to convince the panel how a number of constitutional and statutory rights of the accused were violated by the police personnel. It was also contended by the parents of the deceased that the children were minors at the time of the incident. The Commission had made due note of this. The age of three of the accused Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu was discussed in detail during the commission’s hearing. Two headmasters from schools in which three of the accused had studied had informed the Commission that the school register had a record of their dates of birth. The data from the school registers recorded that they were minors at the time of the incident, which the headmasters corroborated in their depositions as well.

Speaking to TNM, PV Krishnamachari, counsel representing the families of the four deceased said that he was sure that the Commission would suggest prosecution of the police. “Once the court takes up the hearing of the case and opens the sealed cover submitted by the Commission, a copy of the commission’s report will also be shared with the petitioners. I am sure that the Commission’s report will find fault with the police and will say that the police have committed murder.”

“During the hearing, there were several times the head of the Commission asked several questions. From the questioning and from the reactions of the Commission it was evident that it wasn’t convinced by the theory put forward by the police,” added Krishnamachari. 

During the hearing, the Commission was informed that the guidelines laid down by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding arrests of rape accused were violated by the police personnel. Two other very important points that were brought to the Commission’s purview was that there is no written record to show that the police had informed the deceased suspects or their relatives the reason for their arrest and that the deceased were not given the right to meet an advocate during their questioning. Besides these, several other irregularities in the medical examination, remand procedures etc. were also brought to the notice of the Commission.

The various procedural lapses that were brought to light before the Commission and the mismatch in the versions of the witnesses put the onus on the police personnel to prove that they had fired at the accused in self-defence. From all that transpired during the hearing in front of the Commission, it is likely that the Commission will bring up the lapses and hold the police personnel responsible for staging an encounter.  

The Commission held hearings for 47 days between August 21, 2021, and November 15, 2021. The Commission examined 57 witnesses during this period and recorded their evidence. The hearings were held publicly subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

The advocates for the state of Telangana, the police officials involved in the incident and other relevant parties participated in the hearings. The Commission heard oral arguments from all the advocates from November 16, 2021 to November 26, 2021. The panel inspected the various places associated with the incident on December 5, 2021.

After completing the inquiry, the Commission submitted its report before the Supreme Court on January 28, 2022. 

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