NHRC favours judicial probe into AP encounter

The NHRC also decided to send its own team to the encounter spot to conduct an enquiry.

By P S Jayram

Published: Sat 25 Apr 2015, 12:15 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:40 PM

Hyderabad — The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday indicated that it was strongly inclined towards a judicial probe into the April 7 encounter killing of 20 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu who were allegedly involved in smuggling of red sanders wood from the Seshachalam forest range in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.

The Commission, which is into its second day of public hearing at the ‘camp’ in Hyderabad, made the observation after hearing submissions made by civil society representatives and the State Government on the incident, which snowballed into a major controversy with rights activists describing it as a ‘massacre.’

Observing that it was mandatory under the law to order judicial enquiry into such incidents, NHRC Chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan said: “We insist all enquiries by judicial (enquiry), and a log of such incidents must be maintained.” In the process, the Commission virtually dismissed the AP government’s contention that it had ordered a magisterial enquiry by a revenue official into the encounter killing.

The NHRC also decided to send its own team to the encounter spot to conduct an enquiry. The Commission also directed the State Government to submit details of wireless communications pertaining to the encounter, mobile numbers of all the officials involved in the police action and medico-legal reports of the police personnel injured in the action. 

Balakrishnan said witnesses could also get their statements pertaining to the case recorded before an appropriate authority in Tamil Nadu. The Commission Chairman’s direction followed human rights watcher People’s Watch informing the court that that witnesses had said they did not feel safe in Andhra Pradesh and demanded protection.

Meanwhile, the Hyderabad High Court adjourned to April 28 the hearing on a writ petition filed by the father of a terror suspect seeking registration of a criminal case against police in connection with the killing of his son and four others in the alleged encounter in Nalgonda district of Telangana.

This second police encounter, which also took place on April 7, had resulted in wide-spread condemnation by rights activists and political parties who termed it as ‘revenge killing’ following the death of four policemen in an encounter with suspected militants a couple of days earlier.

The high court adjourned the case after Additional Advocate General (AAG) J Ramachandra Rao sought time to file a counter affidavit on the petition. Five undertrials, including Viquar Ahmed believed to be involved in the gunning down of two cops, were killed near Alair in Nalgonda district while being brought from Warangal Jail to a Hyderabad court.

The defence counsel V Raghunath yet again requested the court to issue directions for exhuming the bodies of Viquar and others for a fresh autopsy, alleging that their postmortem was conducted in a ‘hasty manner.’

Viquar’s father Mohammed Ahmed, in his petition, had sought registration of an FIR against the police personnel and transfer of the case to CBI. Ahmed had on April 11 lodged a complaint at Alair police station accusing the police of killing his son and others in a ‘fake encounter’.

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