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India: Letter to Chief Justice, High Court of Telangana from Women’s and People’s Organizations on 4 Police Encounter Deaths in Hyderabad | 6 Dec 2019

7 December 2019

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6th Dec, 2019

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)

PS: A hard copy of this letter was handed over at the Secretariat of the Hon’ble Chief Justice and also to Hon’ble Jst. Rajshekhar Reddy by the above delegation. (since the Hon’ble CJ was not in town).