New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday extended by six months the time for inquiry commission, headed by former apex court judge Justice (retd) V S Sirpurkar, to conclude probe in the encounter killing of four accused in the gang-rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde passed the order while hearing the panel’s plea seeking 6-month extension for submitting its final report in accordance with the terms of reference.
December 12 last year, the apex court had appointed the 3-member commission for inquiry into the incident.
The top court had said that the inquiry commission, which also comprised former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Sondur Baldota and ex-CBI director D R Karthikeyan, would submit its report to the Supreme Court within six months.
The apex court was Friday informed that the commission has been unable to conclude the probe due to some unavoidable reasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four accused — Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, Jolu Shiva and Jollu Naveen – were arrested in connection with the gang-rape and murder of a young veterinary lady doctor in November last year.
December 6 last year, these four accused were killed in an encounter in Hyderabad by Telangana Police.
According to the police, the incident had taken place at around 6.30 am when these accused were taken to the site of offence for reconstruction of the crime scene as part of the investigation.
They were shot dead on NH-44 near Hyderabad — the same highway where the charred body of the 27-year-old veterinarian was found.
An application, filed through the secretary of the inquiry commission in the apex court, said, “In view of the circumstances narrated above which are beyond the control of the commission, the Inquiry Commission has not been able to conduct proceedings in accordance with the terms of reference.”
“Therefore, the Inquiry Commission is constrained to apply to this court for an extension of time of six months from the date the commission is able to function with physical hearings, spot inspections etc. to submit its final report,” it said.
The commission said it had held its first sitting at Hyderabad February 3 this year.
It said that 1,365 affidavits were filed by various persons, including the police personnel involved in the incident and the family members of three of the deceased.
The plea said the affidavits of police personnel involved in the incident were received only June 15.
“Almost all of these 1,365 affidavits and their supporting documents were in Telugu,” it said, adding that the records were translated into English and were verified.
It said the commission had proposed to sit for hearings March 23 and March 24 at Hyderabad but due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, it was constrained to suspend these sittings.
It said the commission explored the possibility and viability of conducting online hearings and sittings to complete the report expeditiously.
“However, the hearings of the inquiry commission would invariably require recording of evidence of witnesses as well as participation of advocates, which presents difficulties of security and confidentiality,” it said.
“Moreover, the inquiry requires physical inspection of the scene of incident and other related locations, which is also not possible in a virtual hearing. Conducting inquiry without physical hearings, spot inspections and so on does not appear to be feasible,” the plea said.