The four accused in the rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad were killed by the police in the early hours of Friday at the spot where the victim's charred body had earlier been found.
According to sources, the four men - Mohammad Arif, J Naveen, J Shiva and Ch Chennakesavulu - died when the police, in "an act of self-defence" opened fire at them after they wrested weapons and tried to open fire and flee at Chatanapalli in Shadnagar.
Initial information suggests that they were taken to the place to recreate the crime scene on Thursday night. They were shot dead by Telangana police personnel when they allegedly tried to escape from there. The four accused had been remanded to police custody by a Shadnagar court for seven days, only yesterday.
"The accused were killed at Chatanpally, Shadnagar, today in the wee hours between 3 am and 6 am. I have reached the spot and further details will be revealed," police commissioner VC Sajjanar told the media.
Responding to the incident, the victim's father said his daughter's soul "must be at peace now." "It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude towards the police & govt for this," he said.
All the four were arrested on charges of gang-raping and murdering the victim less than 24 hours after the crime. It was widely believed that only circumstantial evidence was available.
According to police, the victim was trapped and killed by the four accused after one of the tyres of her scooter has been deflated when she had reached the toll gate to pick up her parked vehicle to return home. They then carried the body of the victim to a place 28 km away from Shadnagar town and set it on fire. Only her charred remains were found.
'My daughter's soul must be at peace now'
The father of the victim, while reacting to the incident, said, "It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude towards the police and the government for this. My daughter's soul must be at peace now."
The mother of Nirbhaya, Asha Devi, too extended her support to the Hyderabad cops. "I am extremely happy with this punishment. Police has done a great job and I demand that no action should be taken against the police personnel," she was quoted as saying.
But there were those who raised concerns.
Shuttler Jwala Gutta wondered whether this action will stop people from committing such a heinous crime. "Will this stop the future rapists?? And an important question: will every rapist be treated the same way... irrespective of their social standing?" Jwala tweeted.
Senior lawyer Vrinda Grover was categorical in her condemnation of the 'encounter'. "SAY NO TO TRIGGER TRACK INJUSTICE! This is absolutely unacceptable. So all that the state will do in the name of ensuring that women live as equal and free citizens is to add to its arsenal of unlimited arbitrary violence!." she wrote in a Facebook post.
Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor demanded to know more. "Agree in principle. We need to know more, for instance if the criminals were armed, the police may have been justified in opening fire preemptively. Until details emerge we should not rush to condemn. But extra-judicial killings are otherwise unacceptable in a society of laws," he tweeted.
(With ENS inputs)