Observing that even if the investigation was conducted by the police from outside the district, it might not inspire confidence, the Supreme Court on Monday sought a status report from the Andhra Pradesh government on the police investigations into the killing of Maoist leader Azad and journalist Hemchandra Pandey allegedly in a fake encounter in Adilabad district on July 2, 2010.

A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha asked senior counsel Altaf Ahmed, appearing for the State to file the status report by April 15 to enable the court to decide the future course of action, viz., whether to entrust the probe to the CBI or any other independent agency as sought by the petitioners. The Bench was hearing two writ petitions filed by Bineeta, wife of Pande, and social activist Swami Agnivesh seeking a judicial probe into the killings.

When counsel Altaf Ahmed opposed a CBI enquiry saying it might demoralise the police force, Justice Alam said: “Investigation by the police outside the district may not inspire confidence; also no amount of internal disturbance from Maoists will allow the government to resort to fake encounter killings.”

He said that nothing should be done to demoralise the existing structure that was fighting Naxalites and other extremist elements. He said “there is no point in losing faith in the Indian structure, part of which “has done wonderful work.”

The Bench after hearing counsel Prashant Bhushan and Swami Agnivesh asked them to find out whether the State Human Rights Commission could be asked to investigate the case. When Mr. Bhushan insisted on appointment of a special investigation team headed by a retired High Court judge, Justice Alam asked him to find out some officer within the hierarchy to conduct the probe and not someone outside the structure.

He submitted that post mortem and forensic reports had confirmed that they were shot from a close range, belying the encounter theory. He also said that though the FIR was registered at 9.30 a.m., the fact of the death of Azad was announced by television channels from early morning itself. This would show that the police were aware of the death of the two persons and it was not an encounter as it was being suggested.

Swami Agnivesh, explained to the court the sequence of events from the time he received a letter from Home Minister P. Chidambaram.