The Commission of Inquiry into Disha incident found that the police deliberately killed the four suspects by firing at them with anintent to kill. It was in the wake of a ghastly incident in which a young veterinarian was raped and killed near Hyderabad city. The 26-year old, on her way home after visiting a clinic, was gang-raped and burnt alive at Shadnagar. Her body was found in an underpass on the highway. While the brutal assault on the young woman happened on a Wednesday, the killing of suspects took place on the following Friday.
Commission debunks the police claims
The Commission debunked several claims made by the police regarding safe house, snatching of arms by the suspects from the police, throwing mud in their face or the suspects fleeing the scene of the incident. The Commission which submitted its report to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on Friday, 20 May 2022, recommended that ten police men should be tried for killing the four suspects three of whom were minors at the time of murder. They must be tried for the offence under Section 302 read with 34 IPC and Section 201 read with 302 IPC.
In the early hours of 6 December 2019 four suspects- Mohammad Arif, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Channakesavulu were bumped off at the outskirts of Chatanpally village in Ranga Reddy district by the police apparently on the instructions from higher officials. The police claimed that they fired at the fleeing suspects when the latter fired from the weapons snatched from them.
There was public uproar at the beastly attack on the veterinarian girl. The incident triggered angry response throughout the country with demands for speedy justice. Some politicians demanded public lynching of rapists. There was outpouring of anguish that a gruesome crime such as this was even possible in the heart of a vibrant metropolis like Hyderabad. It brought back memories of a similar gruesome sexual assault on a young woman in Delhi in December 2012.
On the same day of killing the suspects, women activists led by Sajaya and Prof. Padmaja Shaw filed a petition in the High Court of Telangana State seeking the intervention of the court in the killing of four suspects. Other petitioners included noted rights activists such as Devi, Gaddam Jhansi, Vimala, Sandhya, B. Vijaya, KN Ashalatha, A Suneetha, Varsha Bhargav, Khaleeda Parveen, Kahaneej Fatima and Sanjeev. It was one of a number of petitions filed in High Court.
NHRC team visits the scene
NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) asked a team led by Manzil Saini, IPS, Senior Superintendent , to visit the actual spot where the killing took place and study. The team, which included a doctor from Safdargunj Hospital, Delhi, visited the place from 7 December 2019 to 11 December 2019. The team spoke to a number of officials, police and civil, and witnesses.
While appointing a commission to inquire into the killings, the Supreme Court did not stop the investigation by the Special investigation Team (SIT) led by Mahesh Bhagwat. The parents of the deceased suspects consistently said it was not an encounter but a deliberate murder by the police.
The Inquiry Commission headed by Justice VS Sirpurkar and comprising Justice Rekha P Sondur Baldota and Dr. DR Karthikeyan, both members, tore into shreds the evidence put forward by the police. The Inquiry Commission was constituted by the Supreme Court on 12.12.2019.
The Commission did not believe any of the various versions put forward by the police regarding the guest house for which there was no lease document signed. The confusing statements made by the police officials were suspected by the Commission. For instance, the then Commissioner of Police VC Sajjanar stated in the press conference held at the scene of the incident on the same day that the articles of Disha were recovered from behind the bushes. However, when he was confronted with this statement during his examination by the Commission, he stated that it is erroneous. “There is a major discrepancy regarding the recovery of the said articles,” the Commission commented in its report. The alleged articles were not shown to the family of the girl for identification, the report noted.
Throwing mud was a concoction
Throwing mud at the police by the suspects was not mentioned in the first complaint filed by the police, the Commission noted. It was brought up subsequently “It is unbelievable that the suspects threw soil into the eyes of 12 police personnel to make them blind,” said the report. This was contradicted by the leader of the police party in Commission’s examination. The claim that two policemen received bleeding injuries and were shifted to Care Hospital was also proved false. It was alleged that Jollu Shiva had beaten Saidupally with a stick and Jollu Naveen had hit K. Venkateswarly with stones. Blood stains were there on their uniform, it was claimed. But the doctor who supposed to have treated them at Care said there were no blood stains. While it was claimed that the injured policemen were shifted to Care Hospital at 8 am on the same day, they were shown as witnesses at the scene of incident between 12.45 pm and 2.45 pm.
Snatching pistols from police?
The alleged snatching away pistol from the police by the suspects also was not believed by the Commission. The report also said it cannot be believed that the suspects died since they fired at each other out of confusion. It found multiple contradictions and absurdities in the claims made by the police.
Sexual assault is pervasive and the response must be systemic but not episodic, argued Kalpana Kannabiran and Justice Sudershan Reddy in their article published in The Hindu within three days of the incident. “There is a procedure prescribed by the law for criminal investigation. This is a procedure embedded in Constitutional principles and honed over decades of thinking on keeping constitutionalism alive and throbbing through the most testing times. Article 21 of the Constitution of India – ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law’ –is fundamental and non-derogable. The Police, as officers of government, are bound by the Constitution- there are no exception,” reminded the writers in their article.
Though there have been a number of encounters in united Andhra Pradesh and later in Telangana, Disha is the first case to be probed thoroughly and police found guilty. Most of the encounters will probably end this way if a proper inquiry is conducted. The activists of women and child rights have to be congratulated for their tenacity and hard work in exposing the criminal mindset of the police officials.