In a bizarre turn of events, all four accused in the gang rape and murder of a veterinarian in the outskirts of Hyderabad were killed in a police encounter. The incident comes exactly a week after the 26-year-old veterinary doctor was killed, and Mohammad Areef, accomplices Naveen, Shiva and Chennakeshavulu, were arrested by the Hyderabad police. The encounter took place at Chatanpally, the exact site where the charred body of the victim was found. According to Cyberabad police officials, the four accused were taken to the spot to recreate the crime scene, following which some of the accused tried to flee after attacking the officials with stones. According to the police version, the officials had to retaliate, gunning down all the four. The victim’s parents thanked the Telangana government for ensuring speedy justice.
The ‘action’ comes less than 24 hours after a local court granted one week custody of the accused to Telangana police. The state government had set up a fast-track court a few days back. The incident had caused national outrage, and was a topic of discussion in the parliament, with lawmakers pushing for stringent laws to prevent such incidents. The Cyberabad commissioner, V.C. Sajjanar, arrived at the location, which is just 100 metres away from national highway, after the encounter. Sajjanar has, in the past, been linked to such sensational encounters. Almost a decade back, three youngsters from Warangal were accused of throwing acid on a college student. In a similar fashion, all three were killed in an encounter when Sajjanar was the police commissioner.
At the encounter site, a big crowd gathered and started raising slogans supporting the police action and hailing Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao. The Telangana government and the state police had received flak for the way they dealt with rape. The victim’s family members blamed the police for not taking the missing complaint seriously. Later, home minister Mahmood Ali was criticised for his insensitive comments that the victim should have called 100, instead of calling her younger sister.
Immediately after the encounter, political leaders, cutting across all parties, celebrities and citizens, cheered the police action. However, doubts are being raised around the legitimacy of the encounter. The police is yet to come out with an official version.
The charred body of the woman, working as an assistant veterinarian at a state-run hospital, was found under a culvert in Shadnagar on Thursday morning a day after she went missing. Reports later claimed that the woman was subjected to gang rape before murder, and the police identified four suspects related to the case. The four men, all lorry workers aged between 20 and 26, were booked under Sections 376D (gangrape), 302 (murder),201 (destroying evidence) of the Indian Penal Code. The Telangana government, under massive pressure, had approved a fast-track court to try the case.
A district bar association in Telangana announced their decision not to represent the four accused. Mattapally Srinivas, president of the Ranga Reddy Bar Association, said they had taken the decision as "a moral and social responsibility against the heinous crime committed by the accused." "We have decided not to offer any legal services to the accused. In such cases, the court may direct the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to appoint a lawyer for them. When the Authority directs any advocate to represent the accused we cannot refuse it," he told PTI. Srinivas further said that some of the sections under which the four were booked by police may carry the death sentence, considering the gravity of the case.