Telangana HC refuses to interfere with the probe by Sirpurkar Commission

The Telangana High Court on Thursday refused to interfere with the investigation by the Justice Sirpurkar Commission of Inquiry into the killing of four suspects in the gang-rape and murder of a woman veterinarian in an alleged encounter by police near Hyderabad in 2019.

The court dismissed the petitions of two police officials challenging the procedure adopted by the Supreme Court-appointed Commission to examine them as witnesses.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice A Rajasheker Reddy, which had reserved its judgment on Monday, pronounced it on Thursday.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Vasam Surender and Circle Inspector Konda Narasimha Reddy had stated that the three-member Commission was not adhering to certain provisions of law. They complained that they were initially called as state witnesses but later converted as witnesses for the Commission.

The police officers had pleaded before the High Court to direct the Commission to treat them as independent witnesses.

The three-member panel headed by retired Supreme Court Judge V S Sirpurkar is currently conducting its inquiry from the premises of the High Court.

The panel was set up on December 12, 2019, to inquire into the circumstances leading to the killing of four accused in the case in an alleged encounter with police on December 6, 2019.

The four accused were shot dead at Chatanpally on National Highway-44 near Hyderabad, the same highway where the charred body of 27-year-old Disha (as the victim is referred to by the investigators) was found.

According to police, Disha was kidnapped and sexually assaulted near Outer Ring Road (ORR) on the outskirts of Hyderabad on the night of November 27, 2019.

After the assault, the accused murdered her, took the body to Chatanpally and set it on fire.

The Supreme Court constituted the panel while hearing the petitions raising doubts that the policemen killed the accused in their custody and projected it as an encounter.

DSP Surender was the investigating officer in the Disha rape and murder case and took the four accused for recovery to Chatanpally on December 6, 2019.

Narasimha Reddy was an inspector from Medchal, whose weapon was allegedly snatched by one of the accused, leading to firing in which all the four accused were killed.

They argued that since they were called as witnesses under section 8-B of the Commission of Inquiry Act, their statements should be recorded at the end, after deposition of all witnesses.

During the arguments before the High Court, the counsel of the petitioners submitted that the normal procedure is to take up the chief examination first and allow the other party to cross-examine. But the Commission is first cross-examining them before recording their depositions.

They expressed apprehensions about their defence being disclosed if they are examined first. The petitioners sought direction to keep their examination at the end so that others will not fill the gaps in their case using the information from their depositions.

The State government had supported the case of the police officers.

Advocate General B S Prasad had submitted in the court that the investigators may be accorded the statutory protection they are entitled to. He told the bench that they should not be made to produce self-incriminating material before the Commission.

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