Motel, Bus, Bullets: How an SC Commission Tore Up 2019 Hyderabad Encounter Case
Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission has detailed out the loopholes in Hyderabad police's 'unbelievable' claims.
Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission has noted in its scathing report on the 2019 Hyderabad encounter case that there is a question that could sum up the “unbelievable” police version, in the sequence of events that led to the death of four people accused of raping and murdering Disha, a 26-year-old veterinarian, in 2019.
Commission: Do you mean to say that the other two (suspects), instead of running away, stood there waiting to be shot dead?
Police Officer: I cannot say.
That’s how bizarre the Hyderabad police’s case was, the commission has argued in the report which was submitted before the Supreme Court on Friday, 20 May 2022.
C Chennakesavulu, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen, and Mohammed Arif were accused of raping and killing Disha on 27 November 2019.
On 6 December 2019, the four were killed at Chattanpally, near Hyderabad, in an ‘encounter’ with the police.
They were accused of allegedly shooting at 10 police officers and fleeing from the spot. In 2019, the Supreme Court appointed Justice Sirpurkar Commission to inquire into the case, which was widely derided as a fake encounter.
In the report, the commission has ripped apart the police’s claim of ‘private defence’ or self-defence. The commission has said that the 10 police officials are liable to be tried for murder under section 302 of IPC.
Here’s what Justice VS Sipurkar commission found when it examined witnesses and evidence for several months in 2021:
A shady 'safe house' interrogation, a bus with multiple logs, a field with no loose mud to throw at police, a bund with no mention in confession records, a pouch recovered multiple times, missing cartridges, and police men who were magically responsive and unconscious at the same time.
Read on as The Quint digs into the case bit by bit.
Safe House, Bus, and Fallow Land
Ravi Guest House at Manikonda near Hyderabad was where the police took the four accused persons on 5 December 2019, a day before they were killed. The guest house or motel was supposed to have been a leased ‘safe house.’
Here, the accused – C Chennakesavulu, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen, and Mohammed Arif – were interrogated, the police have claimed. During the interrogation the suspects allegedly confessed to the police that they had hidden crucial evidence including belongings of Disha at an open field in Chattanpally.
The commission in its report, however, has observed that this interrogation may never have taken place. Why?
For starters, the ‘safe house’ booking could have been an underhand deal because no rental deed was produced at first, to show that the place was taken on lease. There was also no record of payment of rent.
Most importantly, the police official who was believed to have interrogated the suspects had not turned up at the safe house for 21 hours. Why were the suspects brought to the safe house if they were not to be interrogated?
More damningly, the fallow land in Chattanpally was never mentioned in any of the interrogation records.
In fact, the accused had earlier said that they had disposed material objects at a different place, close to NH 44 where Disha’s body was found. Then why were the accused taken to the spot where the encounter later took place?
“It appears that the alleged interrogation and the interrogation reports are introduced only to make it appear that some investigation was done on the morning of 5 December 2019 at the safe house.”Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
The police then took the four accused to Chattanpally in a bus with registration number TS 09 PB 4760. The commission has observed that there were “serious contradictions” over this bus.
One of the police officials had brought the bus to the safe house at 12 am on 6 December 2019. Meaning, the bus was brought in even before the suspects allegedly confessed.
Why was the bus readied before the police had the need to take the accused to the spot? Does this amount to planning?
On reaching the spot the police claimed that the accused took them to the “fifth bund” or a raised ground. This was where the evidence was supposedly buried.
“There is no reference to any such fifth bund in any of the prior statements of any of the witnesses…No such fifth bund is cordoned off to protect the scene."Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
Why then did the police take the suspects to the far end of the field, and what happened there?
Mud, Pouch, Injuries, and Guns
According to the police, the suspects threw mud and incapacitated them before fleeing. The commission, however, has observed that this could not have happened because there was vegetation growing on the land making it difficult to find loose mud.
“A handful (of mud) could have been collected only by scraping the ground with some effort, but nowhere enough to simultaneously throw in the eyes of twelve persons so as to incapacitate them and attack them.”Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
Besides, the mud was neither found on police uniforms nor the bodies of the deceased, the commission has observed. Then why did the police open fire?
According to the police, one suspect, Md Arif, grabbed a police officer’s pistol and fired. The pistol was, however, taken from a black pouch fastened to the body of the police officer. This pouch was found to have been recovered from multiple spots at multiple times, the commission has observed by studying recovery records.
“While CW-49 (police officer) claimed that his pouch was left intact on his belt, a piece of the pouch is recovered at 3 pm…on 6 December 2019. Surprisingly, a black coloured pistol pouch is again recovered at 8 pm…from the agricultural fields.”Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
Let’s let the mysterious pouch be. But can the “unbelievable” account of the firing be ignored?
According to the police, Arif took the 99MM pistol to indiscriminately fire at the police officials. But this pistol was in “magazine load” mode at the time, the commission has observed. Meaning, the pistol could have fired only after someone cocked it into “chamber load” mode. Could accused persons, who were not trained in weaponry, have done this?
“It is not possible for an untrained person to identify the safety switch and thereafter fire the weapon. It is also not conceivable that within a short span of time, as alleged by the police, the deceased suspects snatched the weapons, cocked the pistol and used it to fire.”Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
Then why did the police open fire? The commission has observed that there was a version where indiscriminate firing by two suspects, Arif and Chennakesavulu, resulted in bullets hitting and killing the other suspects.
The commission, however, has dismissed this claim because the bullets that killed all the suspects were of “high velocity” from AK 47 and other weapons of the police officers, and not of “low velocity” like that of the pistols the accused allegedly stole from the police.
“The allegation of snatching of pistols from the policemen CW-44 and CW-49 is artificial and unbelievable.”Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
The falsehoods did not end there, as per the commission. Two of the police officials were allegedly injured in the alleged attack. However, the same officers were found responsive and unconscious at the same time.
The commission has observed, “It is noticed that both CW-49 and CW-50 (injured police officers) have stated before the magistrate that even though they were unconscious, they could hear firing and siren sounds.”
This was followed by more bizarre events.
"The injured policemen who were said to have been shifted to the hospital at 8 am were shown as witnesses present and examined during the inquest conducted over the dead bodies between 12.45 pm and 2.45 pm.”Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
A case of science fictional transportation? The commission has also found that only 19 cartridges were recovered from the crime scene where as 41 rounds were fired.
“We find that the claim that the deceased suspects assaulted the policemen, that the two policemen sustained injuries as a result and that they were treated at hospitals is false.”Jutice VS Sirpurkar Commission
Worse, the commission has found judicial lapses and willful obfuscation of the fact that three of the accused were minors.
Why Were the Accused in Police Custody At All?
According to the commission, the judicial magistrate granted police custody without perusing related documents including those which could have proved the age of the accused persons.
Most importantly, the suspects were neither produced before the judicial magistrate nor were they given legal counsel or advocate. Custody was granted to the police purely based on the request petition.
In this melee, the ages of the suspects were not ascertained. As per the Juvenile Justice Act, the ages of minors are to be ascertained by their school records.
The teachers at the schools where three of the accused studied, have produced the records that ascertained the ages. It was found that Jollu Shiva, Chennakeshavulu and Jollu Naveen were born in 2002 and 2004 respectively, making them minors at the time of their death. Md Arif was 26 years old.
“Police were well aware about the school records of Jollu Shiva and Chennakeshavulu and yet have not recorded the age of the deceased persons according to the admission registers at any given point of time.”Justice VS Sirpurkar Commission
Going by this, other than Md Arif, three of the accused should have been sent to juvenile correction facility instead of prison. Could that have prevented the alleged extrajudicial killing?
In the 400-page report, the commission's rebuttal to Telangana’s legal counsel seems to stand out. Quoting the Supreme Court, the commission has stated that “killings by trigger-happy police personnel, who liquidate criminals and project the incident as an encounter” should be deprecated.
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