The Telangana High Court on Saturday ordered a second postmortem examination on the bodies of the four men killed in an encounter on December 6 within 48 hours, reported PTI.

The bodies of the four men accused of allegedly raping and killing a woman veterinarian is currently preserved in the state-run Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad in accordance with earlier court orders. The court took up the case based on a representation received in the office of the chief justice, alleging that the police action was extra-judicial killing.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy directed Telangana’s principal secretary of Medical and Health Department to request the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi to constitute a medical team with three expert forensic specialists to conduct the postmortem examination.

They directed that the autopsy should be conducted before December 23 and the report with their findings should be submitted to the registrar general of the High Court. After this, the bodies of the four men can be handed over to their respective families.

The High Court added that the state government shall make all arrangements for the air travel of the medical team from AIIMS along with their accommodation and other facilities. They said this would enable them to efficiently discharge the duty assigned to them.

The court advised the doctors to express an independent view on the basis of the evidence collected by them. The judges also asked the chief of the Special Investigation Team to seize all material objects such as case diary, movement register of the police officials and inventory of the weapons used by the officials in the encounter. These will be placed before the inquiry committee constituted by the Supreme Court.

On December 12, the Supreme Court had ordered a judicial inquiry into the police encounter. The inquiry will be headed by former Supreme Court judge VS Sirpurkar, and will also comprise former Bombay High Court judge Rekha Baldota and former Central Bureau of Investigation director DR Karthikeyan. The bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, had given the order after hearing two petitions seeking an independent inquiry into the encounter.

The inquiry will have to be completed in six months. The court also stayed proceedings by the Telangana High Court and National Human Rights Commission in the matter.

The state government has justified the encounter, claiming that the accused snatched two firearms and shot at police personnel. The government said no policemen received bullet injuries but got injured in the attack by the accused.

Police version of the encounter

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

The Telangana Police said the four accused were shot dead in the early hours of December 6, when they attempted to flee from custody. The accused attempted to break out while being taken to the murder site to reconstruct the sequence of events. They allegedly snatched a weapon and fired at the police, forcing the police to shoot back.

The National Human Rights Commission sent a team after the killings to conduct a spot inquiry and said the matter required a careful investigation. Human rights organisation Amnesty International India criticised the shooting, saying the incident set a “disturbing precedent of circumventing the legal system” and called for an independent inquiry.

Several people have cautioned against the dangers of “extra-judicial killings” while many politicians praised the Telangana Police and the government for “delivering justice”.