HYDERABAD:AP DGP JV Ramudu on Friday submitted a report to the high court on the Seshachalam encounter in which 20 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu were gunned down even as he strongly defended his men involved in the incident.
“We are in no mood to transfer anyone including Kantha Rao (head of the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force). We are scrutinising the case and if any procedural lapses surface, we will see what has to be done about it. But I must say that Kantha Rao and his team have done a commendable job,” he told Express.
Kantha Rao, the man at the centre of it all, allegedly did not inform local police about the operation or the presence of smugglers — said to be numbering over 100 — before pressing ahead into the forest with two teams, comprising 15 personnel each. “Had he informed the local police, more forces could have been rushed. There are certain procedural lapses but that is part of the inquiry,’’ a police official said. The DGP, on his part, further said the task force would be strengthened with more men and materials.
In the high court, additional advocate general D Srinivas said a magisterial inquiry had been ordered and that the National Human Rights Commission too had issued notices to the AP government. Submitting the DGP’s report in a sealed cover — which was done following a query from the court on whether a case of unnatural death had been registered — Srinivas informed a division bench, comprising Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta and Justice PV Sanjay Kumar, that two cases were registered on a complaint filed by the police. “The report will be placed before the court concerned,” he said. The bench was dealing with a PIL filed by Chandra Shekar of the Civil Liberties Committee, seeking a directive to book a murder case against the police involved in the encounter and also to order CBI probe.
The additional AG explained to the bench that the AP authorities had followed guidelines framed by the Supreme Court and the NHRC and handed over bodies of the victims to the respective families after postmortem. Interestingly, he said the police have video footage to prove that the victims were felling red sanders trees and also pelting stones at the task force personnel after being warned to surrender. He contended that as the NHRC was seized of the matter, it would not be proper for the high court to entertain the petition.
The petitioner’s counsel V Raghunath pointed out that the police had booked an attempt to murder case under the IPC and a case under the Forest Act against the victims. “As per the apex court’s direction, it is mandatory for the police to book a murder case against the police personnel involved in the encounter,” he argued.
However, the bench felt the petitioner had several remedies and suggested that he first approach the police concerned and lodge a complaint against the cops involved in the encounter. If the police station concerned does not register the case, then approach the district SP. If the SP also refuses to register the case, the petitioner or any other person may have the right to approach the high court seeking appropriate direction, it said and posted the matter to Monday for further hearing.
Vaiko Stopped in His Tracks
MDMK leader Vaiko, who has demanded probe by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court into the Seshachalam encounter, on Friday demanded the immediate arrest of the police involved. Vaiko, who sought to lead a march to Chittoor, was stopped in Vellore.
Naidu assures OPS of ‘action’
AP CM Naidu on Friday sent a letter to his Tamil Nadu counterpart O Panneerselvam assuring him of a speedy probe and ‘necessary action’. He said his government had ordered a magisterial inquiry to ascertain ‘facts.’
Ordinance on Smugglers?
AP govt is contemplating promulgation of an ordinance to attach the properties of red sanders smugglers and make illegal felling of the trees a non-bailable offence. Ten years imprisonment and `10 lakh penalty for sanders smuggling are also in the offing.