Following uproar both for and against the extra-judicial killings of four men accused of raping a 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad last week, a petition has been filed in the National Human Rights Commission seeking an autopsy on the deceased's bodies.
On Friday, as news of the encounter of the four accused by Hyderabad Police under dubious circumstances caused controversy with a majority of Indians supporting the move. While critics expressed reservations against the glorifying custodial death and even called for inquiries, police have clarified that the killings were in self-defense.
Nevertheless, activists Maja Daruwala who is Senior Advisor at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch, have together approached the NHRC to preserve the bodies of the deceased men in order to carry out autopsies. They have also sought a panel of surgeons, preferably from outside of Telangana or Andhra Pradesh, to conduct the autopsy.
"The versions arising in the media raise pertinent concerns of this being a staged encounter or even a case of custodial death," the petition read. "We request that the NHRC immediately monitor to ensure that the PUCL guidelines are being followed and send its own observer to elicit on the ground facts surrounding the encounter".
The petition further outlines that at the time of the shootings, the four rape-accused were unarmed, a fact that has been widely criticized on social media. The petition also cites discrepancies in the police's versions of the incident. While initial reports suggested the encounter took place at 3.30 am on Friday morning, the police later confirmed the time of killings to be at 6 am in the morning. Cyberabad Police Commissioner CV Sajjanar also said that one of the accused, Mohammed Arif, was the first to open fire, even as the police team that took them to the crime scene were attacked with stones and sticks. The snatched weapons were in an "unlocked" position, he added.
The four men had allegedly been taken to the scene for recreating the crime but instead chose to attack the police, resulting in the shooting. There is no hard evidence including eye-witnesses that can corroborate this statement.
The petition further sought a detailed forensic investigation into the matter and asked the NHRC to use its powers to intervene in the matter.
Meanwhile, the Centre has sought a report from Telangana government over "custodial killing" of Telangana veterinarian's alleged rapists, sources said. A source in the Ministry of Home Affairs said that it is killing in custody, as per existing guidelines state will have to apprise NHRC via MHA.