Sunday, February 28, 2021

Who killed the Advocates & why?

When lady Diana was struggling for life after a fatal accident, long ago, the paparazzi (the tabloid journalists/photographers) who were following her to report were not offering a glass of water, but busy recording the details. This was heavily criticized as unethical media practice and denounced universally.

On 17 February in Telangana, when a woman-lawyer is killed in car and her husband was repeatedly attacked with knives, sickles and axes at leisure in broad day light, passengers in two RTC transport buses were watching, and dozens of by-passers were eager to videograph and share on social media more than calling police or ambulance. Deterioration in human impulses was clearly visible. The Facebook and WhatsApp platforms are full of the bloody pictures and videos. The victim Vaman Rao was asking for ambulance and police, while video takers were first recording it and then thinking of calling ambulance.

Why are they killed?

A flexi “this construction has no legal permission” appeared in on a house under constructed, and on the temple under construction. A politician filed affidavit about his properties when he contested one election. Veracity of his affidavit is challenged in court of law with proof of several suppressed properties. When one person died in police custody, a public interest litigation is filed that led to investigation into police atrocity.  None claimed credit for flexis, but legal actions were initiated by Gattu Vaman Rao and his wife Nagamani, both the advocates practising in High Court under the firm name Gattu Law Chambers, belonging to village Gunjapadugu in Ramagiri Mandal of District Peddapalli. For raising these issues and fighting against the police and powerful persons in ruling party, the couple faced several difficulties and harassment. They sought police protection and direction to prevent police from harassing them. He was also fighting against sand mafia, and other wrongs in his native village.

Also Read : Brutal murder of HC advocate couple creates uproar

Whether the murder of lawyer couple is to silence the questioning voices, for challenging lock up death, exposing the sand mafia and illegal constructions?

Police Protection from Police

Seeking and granting protection for life appears to be an empty exercise in these days. The High Court of Telangana has accorded the protection to the Advocate-couple, who were hacked to death in broad day light on 17th February on their way to High Court from a local court in Peddapalli District. It is reported that victim Nagamani has requested police department for protection narrating the threats.

Suo motu directions of High Court

The High Court of Telangana took suo motu notice of the murders and directed the state to file a status report before March 1. Calling murders most unfortunate, the Chief Justice Hima Kohli directed immediate action against the culprits. The CJ also suggested all the material evidence to be preserved with care. It was mentioned that forensic evidence be collected scientifically. Advocate General B.S Prasad was instructed by the Chief Justice to file a status report on the ongoing investigation. The High Court had directed that there should be no scope of lack of evidence in the prosecution of the accused. The High Court asked for the videos to be traced and noted as crucial evidence against the culprits.

Entire Telangana Courts came to stand still and Manthani observed Bandh. There were Dharnas by lawyers before Courts and other places. Rallies were also planned. The murder that shook the State has also revealed total absence of human response from the passers-by.

Video recording of murder

Advocate Gattu Vaman Rao and his wife Advocate Nagamani were attacked while they were returning to Hyderabad after attending a case in a local court in Peddapalli district. They were dragged out of four-wheeler at Kalvacharla village in Ramagiri Mandal of Peddapalli district in Telangana and attacked continuously with knives, axes, sickles etc.  Vaman Rao was repeatedly attacked on the road while his wife was killed within the car itself. Several videos were recorded by people passing by and placed in social media within minutes of the murder. There was none to come to their rescue, nor even to call for ambulance or police either during or after the gruesome incident.

Also Read : Peddapalli Murder case: Sensational twists come to fore

After the daylight brutal murders, the police officers said that the killings appear to have been executed by professional killers. The Ramagundam Police Commissioner V Sathyanarayana told media, “While they were travelling, some assailants have brutally stabbed them to death after overtaking their vehicle and stopping it.” The assailants, who travelled in an SUV had blocked the vehicle of the couple, leaving them with no escape route.

Vaman Rao names the killer

Traffic halted for a while as motorists and bystanders watched the killings in horror, some of them were capturing the brutal murders on their phone cameras. One video showed the murder and the other showed assailants escaping in their SUV after the murders. It appeared that Vaman Rao from the pool of blood was answering the questions about his name, village and besides naming Kunta Srinu as responsible for attack. He was pleading for ambulance, but the people preferred recording.

After the incident was reported to the police, the couple were taken to Peddapalli government hospital for treatment. However, they succumbed to their injuries while undergoing treatment, said CP Ramagundam.

Gattu Vaman Rao’s father Kishan Rao in his complaint alleged that Kunta Srinivas and Akkapaka Kumar have killed them at the behest of Vasanth Rao.” the CP said. Vasanth Rao, Srinivas also belonged to Gunjapadugu village, wherefrom the advocates also hailed.

3 police teams constituted

The Commissioner of Police said that three teams have been constituted to nab Kunta Srinivas, while few persons related to him were taken into custody, six teams have been formed to investigate the case, with three DCPs (Deputy Commissioner of Police), two Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) along with assistance from the Task Force and Police Cyber Security Wing.

The Telangana High Court Advocates Association (THCAA) in a statement condemned the murder and sought prosecution of the culprits without any delay. A protest call was also given by the THCAA, civil society groups and opposition parties crying foul over the brutal murders that shook the state.

Who is the culprit?

From the pool of blood, Vaman Rao has firmly mentioned the name of Kunta Srinu alleging conspiracy for brutal attack. Who is this Srinu? He is the Mandal unit president of ruling Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, who lost election for Sarpanch of Panchayat. He was said to be the follower of Putta Madhu, former MLA and chairman, Zilla Parishad of Peddapalli District.

Fight against the lock-up death

The lawyer-couple had recently filed a petition before Telangana High Court demanding a probe into allegation of the custodial death of Seelam Rangaiah, a Dalit man who was arrested under the charges of poaching wild animals.

The couple have written to the HC that on 22 May 2020 Sheelam Rangaiah since deceased was brought to Manthani Police Station, illegally detained in lockup for the past four days, harassed him both mentally and physically and due to unbearable beatings of the police including the CI, SI and constables, SheelamRangiah died in the lock up, and ultimately issued FIR u/s 174 of Cr.P.C and sent the dead body to Manthani Area Hospital for Post-mortem and trying to manage the doctors not to identify the injuries on the dead body of the deceased. The petitioners wanted a direction to the police to register the FIR as custodial death for the offences under section 176(2) Cr.P.C and u/s 302 of IPC and to conduct re-post-mortem examination on the dead body with a team of doctors to trace out the original facts, to stop the cremation of the deceased Sheelam Rangiah and also to conduct judicial inquiry into the death of Sheelam Rangaiah.

Anjani Kumar’s report

The Bench has directed the Hyderabad Commissioner of Police Anjani Kumar to probe these allegations of custodial death.

The High Court directed Mr. Anjani Kumar, the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, to personally investigate and to submit Report, which was submitted to Court on 19.06.2020. The Court directed that the report should be kept under the custody of the Registrar General of High Court and Ms. Nagamani be permitted to take the notes from the Report.

A bench comprising Chief Justice and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy was hearing a plea by the couple that the police were allegedly harassing them with several FIRs in remote police stations in Telangana.

Nagamani complains of threats

Ms. Nagamani informed that ever since the said permission to file the counter to the Report was given to her, both she, and her husband are constantly being harassed by the police force, both at Manthani, and in Hyderabad. She also complained that her husband is being falsely implicated in two FIRs including No.176 of 2020 on 02 September 2020, registered with Police Station, Basanth Nagar, Ramagundam District. Moreover, according to her, she is being threatened over phone by the Police Department, in case she was to file a counter to the Report submitted by Mr. Anjani Kumar, the Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad, not only her life, but also the lives of her children, and other family members will be in danger. She also told that the concerned Circle Inspector of Police has threatened to commit suicide, in case, if the case filed by Ms. Nagamani is not withdrawn by her.

Hence, she orally sought both police protection, and stringent action be taken by High Court against the Police Department.  The High Court directed the Director General of Police, Telangana State, to ensure chat neither Ms. Nagamani, nor her husband, Mr. Gattu Vaman Rao, are threatened by any Police Officer, and that they are not called to any police station as long as this case is sub judice before the High Court. The court had extended protection to the couple and posted the matter for further hearing in April.

The leaders of ruling party and police are facing allegations in this gruesome murder. It is for them to get clear of this.

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is former Central Information Commissioner and Professor of Law at Bennett University

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