The National Human Rights Commission on Friday sent a team to immediately conduct a spot inquiry into the police encounter in which four rape accused were killed near Hyderabad earlier in the day. The commission said the incident showed that police were not prepared for any untoward activity by the accused.

In the early hours of Friday, the police said the four men accused of raping and murdering a veterinarian in Hyderabad were killed in an encounter when they were trying to flee from custody. At the time of the incident, police were taking the accused to the murder site to reconstruct the sequence of events. The accused allegedly snatched a weapon and fired at the police, resulting in a cross-fire.

The human rights body said the matter needs to be probed “very carefully”, and asked its Director General (Investigation) to immediately send a team and submit a report at the earliest.

“The incident which has taken place now clearly indicates that the police personnel were not properly alert and prepared for any untoward activity by the accused on the spot, which resulted into death of all four,” the commission said. “The deceased had been arrested by the police during investigation and a judgment in the matter by the competent court was yet to be pronounced. If the arrested persons were actually guilty, they were to be punished as per law pursuant to the directions of the competent court.”

The panel said the killings in the encounter was a matter of concern. It said that though incidents of sexual assault and violence against women had created fear and anger, the loss of human lives even of a person arrested by the police under law would “definitely give a wrong message to the society”.

The commission said it has been urging all law enforcing agencies to keep the human rights angle in view while dealing with persons under custody. “The right to life and equality before law are the basic human rights recognised and granted by the Constitution of India,” the commission said.

The accused – Mohammed Areef, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu – were arrested on November 29 for allegedly raping and killing the woman before burning her body two days before. The four were under judicial custody and lodged in high security cells in Cherlapally Central Prison.