New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday gave another six months to the three-member inquiry commission, headed by former apex court judge V S Sirpurkar, to file the final report on encounter killing of the four accused in the case of gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana asked the lawyer appearing for the inquiry panel as to how much more time it wanted to conclude the probe.
The bench, also comprising Justice Surya Kant, referred to a similar panel, set up to inquire into the encounter killing of gangster Vikas Dubey in Uttar Pradesh, and said it has already filed the report.
The commission was headed by former Supreme Court judge B S Chauhan and had concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that the encounter of Dubey was staged.
Referring to the inquiry into the Hyderabad encounter killings, the bench sought to know from lawyer K Parameshwar the reason for the delay in concluding the inquiry.
The lawyer said the commission has to hear from over 130 witnesses in the matter and the COVID situation contributed to the delay as well.
Ok. Six months, the bench ordered.
The Sirpurkar panel was set up on December 12, 2019 to inquire into the circumstances leading to the encounter and was to submit the report in six months.
The other members of the commission include former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Sondur Baldota and ex-CBI director D R Karthikeyan.
The term of the inquiry panel has now been extended thrice. It was extended in July 2020 for the first time for six months.
While appointing the panel, the top court had stayed the proceedings pending in the Telangana High Court and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the case and had sought an SIT report, saying no other authority shall inquire into the matter pending before the commission till further orders.
It had ordered that security to the three-member commission shall be provided by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the six-month deadline for submission of the report by the commission shall start from the first day of hearing and it shall have all the power under the Commission of Inquiry Act for conducting inquiry into the December 6, 2019, encounter deaths.
The top court had noted that “conflicting versions about the incident demand an inquiry to uncover the true facts”.
It had directed that the panel would sit at Hyderabad and all the expenses including for the secretarial staff would be borne by the Telangana government. Further, the state would render all assistance required by the commission.
Two petitions were filed in the Supreme Court, one by lawyers G S Mani and Pradeep Kumar Yadav, and the other by advocate M L Sharma, seeking independent investigation against the police officers concerned.
The PIL, filed by Mani and Yadav, claimed that the alleged encounter was “fake” and an FIR should be lodged against the police officers involved in the incident.
The Telangana Police had said that the accused were killed in an exchange of fire. The incident took place around 6.30 am when the accused were taken to the site of offence for the reconstruction of the scene of crime as part of the investigation.
The four accused Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, Jolu Shiva, and Jollu Naveen were arrested in connection with the gang-rape and murder of a young veterinary lady doctor in November 2019.
The four accused were shot dead on NH-44 near Hyderabad — the same highway where the charred body of 27-year-old veterinarian was found.
The police had claimed that on November 27, 2019, the woman veterinarian was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and later found murdered.
It had said that the accused had subsequently burned the body of the woman.