April 13, 2012

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to “consider” a plea for an independent probe into the killings of top Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and scribe Hemchandra Pandey in an allegedly staged gun battle by the Andhra Pradesh police, who were given clean chit by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai agreed to consider the plea after counsel Prashant Bhushan raised suspicions on the credibility of the CBI probe, which he suspected was influenced by the Union home minister as IPS officers are under control of his ministry.

Bhushan told the court that the CBI probe giving a clean chit to AP police and stating that the encounter was genuine, “does not inspire confidence” as there were several loopholes in the report submitted by the agency.

He argued the post-mortem report and other findings of the CBI was done under apparent influence of the home minister, as the IPS officers are under the overall control of the home ministry.

Bhushan claimed that Azad, could not have been killed by AP police without the approval of the home minister, who was in touch with Azad in connection with ceasefire talks between Maoists and the government. 

The court initially expressed its unwillingness to entertain the plea by Bhushan, who represented the slain journalist’s wife, Bineeta Pandey. The court, however, relented later and agreed to go through the written submissions given by him, assailing the CBI’s findings.

The court, however, added, “We are making it clear that this court is not sitting over appeal of the CBI’s investigation report.”

The apex court also agreed to examine social activist Swami Agnivesh‘ plea to inspect the CBI’s report which was, however, opposed by Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval, who appeared for the agency.

Azad and Pandey were killed in an alleged fake encounter in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh in July 2010.

The Supreme Court, earlier on March 16, had said that the CBI probe had established that the killings of Azad, a senior member of banned CPI (Maoist) Central Committee, and Pandey, by the AP police, were not in a fake encounter.

The bench, which had gone through the final report of the CBI in the investigation had said the agency has given evidence to support its probe.

It had said prima facie it does not appear to be a fake encounter. “I went through the report very carefully,” Justice Alam had said.

The bench had, however, agreed to Prashant Bhushan’s plea to be allowed to go through the final probe report of the CBI.

The court was hearing a petition filed by slain scribe Hemchandra Pandey’s wife Bineeta Pandey and social activistSwami Agnivesh, seeking an independent CBI probe into the killing.

They had alleged that post-mortem reports of both the persons and a fact-finding exercise carried out by rights groups clearly indicated that the encounter was not genuine.

It was alleged Azad, 58, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head, and Pandey, 32, were shot dead from a very close range, which was evident from their post-mortem reports.