Hyderabad: All four accused in the rape-and-murder case of a 25-year-old woman veterinarian near here last month were killed in an “exchange of fire” on Friday morning, police said.
The incident took place around 6.30 a.m when the accused were taken to the site of the offence for reconstruction of the scene of the crime as part of the investigation, a senior police official said.
"They (accused) snatched weapons from police and fired on police and tried to escape... police fired in retaliation in which the four accused died," a senior police official told PTI. Two policemen were also injured, he said.
The four men, all lorry workers, aged between 20 and 24, were arrested on November 29 for raping and killing the woman by smothering her and later burning her body. They were remanded to seven days' judicial custody.
Reacting to the killing in the “encounter”, the victim's family welcomed the Telangana police action.
“We are happy. We did not expect this (killing in encounter). We thought they would be hanged through courts…With this incident people should be scared to indulge in such crimes (against women),” the deceased vet’s sister told reporters.
The gang rape-and-murder of the 23-year-old woman had triggered a nation-wide outrage with the public and lawmakers demanding speedy punishment, even lynching, of the perpetrators.
The state government had ordered setting up of a special court (fast track) to expedite the trial.
Public, Family Hail ‘Encounter’ Killings
A large number of people in on Friday expressed happiness over the “encounter killing” of the four accused.
A section of people reached the "encounter" site and congratulated the police and raised slogans in favour of them like 'Telangana police zindabad' and "We got justice" and said this would act as a deterrent for people from committing such crimes.
Some women were seen distributing sweets to police personnel. Some members of the public even celebrated the killings by bursting fire-crackers in other parts of the city.
" They (police) have done encounter we are really happy. It will act as a deterrent. Those want to do crime they should fear...the police have done a very good job," a Hyderabad resident said.
Public anger over the rape and murder of the woman was evident on Saturday last as a restive crowd pelted stones at a police vehicle carrying them to jail.
Protests were also held by different student groups and others at various places in the state, demanding capital punishment for the accused.
The charred body of veterinarian was found under a culvert at Shadnagar near here on the morning of November 28 a day after she went missing.
In Delhi, the father of Nirbhaya, the 23-year-old paramedic student who died days after being gangraped in Delhi in December 2012, also welcomed the news of the killing of the accused in the Hyderabad gangrape-and-murder case in a police encounter, saying the family's wait for justice ended early.
"It is good that the police showed prompt response and acted. Otherwise the accused would have fled and it would have been difficult to catch them. The escape would also have raised questions on the efficiency of the police," he told PTI over phone.
The father of the paramedic student, who was brutally gangraped inside a moving bus in the national capital on December 16, 2012, said they had been waiting for justice for seven years now.
"The family of the Hyderabad doctor will not have to wait for seven years for justice like us. We can understand the pain of her parents. At least, they got justice early," he said. The mother of Nirbhaya appealed to the authorities not to punish the policemen involved in the encounter.
Words of Caution on ‘Extra Judicial Killings’
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, however, sounded a word of caution, saying extra-judicial killings were not acceptable.
"Agree in principle. We need to know more, for instance if the criminals were armed, the police may have been justified in opening fire pre-emptively. Until details emerge we should not rush to condemn. But extra-judicial killings are otherwise unacceptable in a society of laws," the former Union minister said in a tweet.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, tweeted: “Extra-judicial killings cannot be the answer to serious concerns over the safety of women,” while questioning why the tough law put in place on the safety of women after the 2012 Delhi crime was not being implemented properly.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said while the people of the country were rejoicing the encounter deaths of the four accused in the gang rape and murder case of the Hyderabad veterinarian, it is also worrisome that they have lost faith in the justice system.
"The rape cases that have come to light of late, people are in anger whether it is Unnao or Hyderabad, so people are expressing happiness over the encounter.
"It is also something to be worried about, the way people have lost their faith in the criminal justice system. Together all the governments will have to take action on how to strengthen criminal justice system," he told reporters.
National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma said she was happy that the accused in the Hyderabad gangrape-and-murder case were dead, but added that justice should have been done through proper legal channels.
NewsClick adds: The All India Progressive Women’s Association, in a statement, while demanding a thorough enquiry into the alleged “encounter”, adding that the killings had “all the hallmarks of a custodial murder dressed up to look like an encounter”.
“A system that offers murder as “justice” is a system that is telling women—we can’t ensure streets are safe, can’t investigate crimes against women to ensure that there is enough evidence to prove guilt, can’t protect rape survivors ( one of burnt alive in UP yesterday)….All they can do is act like a lynch mob…and as us, the people, to accept lynching as the only possible justice.”
Lawyer Karuna Nundy, too, cautioned against the “encounter” killings and tweeted: “Now nobody will ever know if the four men killed by the police were innocent men, arrested fast to show action. And whether four of the most brutal rapists roam free, to rape and kill more women.”