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Fainted on hearing gunshot, police tell probe in 2019 Hyderabad rape-murder case ‘encounter’

An SC-appointed panel has deposed witnesses in the 2019 ‘encounter’ of 4 accused in the 'gang rape and murder' of a 27-year-old vet. The probe shows contradictions in statements.

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Hyderabad: Police claims ranging from fainting upon hearing the sound of a gunshot to not knowing the English language, and contradictory statements to specific queries — this is what an inquiry panel has found while probing the 2019 ‘encounter’ of four accused in the alleged gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old.

The revelations came to the fore during the hearings of the Supreme Court-appointed three-member panel between August and November this year, where as many as 54 witnesses were questioned, including 15 policemen. The hearings were concluded last week.

The then Cyberabad Commissioner, V.C. Sajjanar, doctors, forensic experts, families of the accused and the victim, and Telangana Home Secretary Ravi Gupta were among those who deposed.

ThePrint attended the public hearings in Hyderabad, and accessed the transcripts of Sajjanar’s deposition.

The broad version of most police officers was identical: The four accused allegedly threw soil in the cops’ eyes when they were taken to the site for crime reconstruction, hit the cops with sticks leading to unconsciousness among some, and then two accused allegedly snatched pistols and started firing. Then-Additional Commissioner of Police V. Surender then asked the accused to surrender, but they kept firing, forcing the police to retaliate.

However, when the officers were cross examined about the ‘encounter’ and how exactly they were attacked, there were several seeming gaps. 

The officers peppered their responses with “I don’t know”, “I cannot say” and “I do not remember”.

Asked why their statements to the judicial magistrate of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) didn’t match new testimonies, the officers said it was because they “cannot read English”. Ex-ACP Surender even went to the extent of alleging that he was threatened by NHRC officials while taking his deposition.

Sajjanar claimed he had no knowledge that the accused were being taken to the crime scene, saying he got to know about it after the ‘encounter’.

Constable Aravindh Goud, who was handling one of the accused, even told the inquiry panel that he lost consciousness after “he heard the firing sound for the first time”.

The panel, while cross examining Head Constable Devarshetti Sreekanth Friday, showed him photos of the scene of incident and asked him to point out where the soil that the accused allegedly threw it into cops’ eyes was from. The photographs shown by panel from 6 December showed that the area was mostly covered in grass.

The inquiry relates to the alleged gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor, named as ‘Disha’ by the police, on 28 November 2019. The accused were caught on 29 November and the police got their judicial custody on 4 December. 

On the morning of 6 December, the Telangana police shot dead all four accused — Mohammad Arif, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chennakesavulu — in an ‘encounter’ around 6 am, after the four men allegedly tried to escape. They had been taken to an underpass on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway, next to Chatanpally village near Hyderabad, to reconstruct the crime scene.

Within a week, the Supreme Court appointed a three-member inquiry panel comprising  former SC judge V.S. Sirpurkar, former Central Bureau of Investigation chief D.R. Karthikeyan and former Bombay High Court judge R.P. Sondurbaldota to probe the ‘encounter’.

Also read: Family of Hyderabad rape victim thank police for ‘encounter’ of accused

Sajjanar was ‘unaware’ about accused taken to crime site 

V.C. Sajjanar, who was the Cyberabad Police Commissioner at the time, told the inquiry panel that he was unaware that the accused were being taken to the crime site for recovery of materials on the day the ‘encounter’ happened. He claimed that he got to know about it at 6.20 am, after the incident had taken place.

He was also questioned about the first press briefing in the case that he held on 29 November 2019 after the accused had been caught, based on details that emerged from the confessional statement of the first accused (A1). He said he hadn’t read the confession before the press meet and conducted it based on a briefing by DCP Prakash Reddy.

The panel questioned the senior officer, who is now the managing director of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation, about the need to disclose the confession details in public even before investigation into the alleged gang rape and murder case was completed, and other accused arrested were produced before judicial magistrate for remand. 

To this, Sajjanar replied that the press meet was based on other evidence too, such as CCTV footage, call records and personal items of the victim. The inquiry panel noted how making the confession public could have interfered in due course of investigation of the other accused.

Questions over Goud’s testimony

Constable Goud, who told the panel that he lost consciousness after hearing the firing sound, was asked 169 questions about the incident.

“I had received a strong blow to my left shoulder, hit on my head. I heard a firing sound for the first time and I did not know what was happening. I felt my head spinning and lost consciousness,” he told the panel during the hearings.

Asked if he had ever handled a pistol or an SLR gun before, Goud answered in the affirmative, citing his training period.

He was also pulled up for several mismatching statements in his affidavit filed before the NHRC, to the Investigating Officer (IO) V. Surender, and before the magistrate following the encounter.

The inquiry panel pointed out that his affidavit gave the impression that he had witnessed the accused attacking cops even as his earlier statement to the I/O said he “got to know about the incident”. Goud replied that he didn’t say this to the I/O. 

The panel also pointed out how the constable in his statement to the magistrate hadn’t mentioned that any accused threw soil into the eyes of the police party.

Moreover, while Goud maintained throughout the hearing that he was hit on the left side of the head before getting unconscious, when asked if he had told the doctor at the hospital about the injury, he said that he hadn’t because he “did not feel anything” at the time, and hadn’t seen his reports.

The commission also noted that on 5 December, a day before the encounter, Goud’s official phone number, which is his only contact, didn’t receive or make any calls. Asked if “that was not strange”, Goud replied that he “cannot say”.

Also read: ‘Rape-murder’ of 6-yr-old in Hyderabad turns into spectacle as scared families lock up daughters

Accused were cooperating with police party, says constable

During his examination on 10 November, Constable R. Balu Rathod, who was also at the crime site on the day of the ‘encounter’, was asked to explain his statement to the NHRC that the accused were cooperating with the police party.

Rathod had told the NHRC that when the accused were taken to the crime scene at about 3.30 am, they weren’t hand-cuffed and were allowed to “roam freely under surveillance”.

Asked about this, Rathod told the inquiry panel that the accused sat freely on one side of the room in the guest house, where they were brought to for questioning, hence he felt they were cooperating. 

Asked if that was the reason why they weren’t handcuffed, Rathod said his superior officer ACP V. Surender didn’t give any orders to do so.

The commission also pointed out that he said he didn’t go close to the bodies of the accused, but had earlier told his I/O that there was a pistol in the hands of two of the accused. To this, he said he hadn’t made such a statement to the I/O and was unsure about why that was noted in the statement.

Cops grilled for hours, panel warns of perjury for lying under oath

The top court-appointed inquiry panel grilled the cops for hours over days, posing hundreds of questions. On several instances, it noted how the officers came “well prepared” for the hearings and just repeated the same answers to different questions.

Fuming over their inconsistent replies, especially Sub-Inspector Kore Venkateshwarlu, from whom a 9 mm pistol was allegedly snatched by one of the accused, the panel warned them of perjury for lying under oath.

Asked if any piece from the pistol pouch fell off when the weapon was snatched, Kore replied nothing fell off and everything was whole. To this, the panel pointed out that a “black colour” pistol pouch was found and seized from the site according to the seizure report.

Meanwhile, ACP V. Surender, on whose orders the police fired at the accused, blamed his “emotional and mental” state for missing details in the complaint. He also defended the firing, saying it was in self-defence.

Independent counsel P.V. Krishnamachary, who represented the families of the accused, told ThePrint that the inquiry makes it “clear that there were several loopholes in the investigation”.

“They do not have answers to several questions posed by the commission, their statements are all mismatching, and senior rank officers are clueless. We are only demanding that there be thorough investigation and the cops be prosecuted as per law because this encounter seems to be a planned attack on the accused,” he said.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: Hyderabad rape case takes on caste colour, now other victims also want ‘prompt justice’


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