The Hyderabad high court on Wednesday directed the Andhra Pradesh government to submit a report in two days on the killing of 20 woodcutters by police in an alleged gun battle even as the governmnent justified police firing, saying it was done in self defence.
The court asked the government and the director general of police to submit the report, giving details of Tuesday's incident in Chittoor and also whether it followed the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for the states to follow in case of such encounters.
The high court gave the direction on a petition filed by a human rights activist, seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into what he said was a fake encounter.
Raghunath, the counsel for the petitioner, said the court asked the government to give details of the people who were killed.
The petitioner alleged that the labourers were murdered by the police in cold blood. He said the police fired to kill the innocent labourers. He pointed out that the police fired at their vital parts.
The Andhra Pradesh government, on the other hand, justified the police firing saying it was done in self defence.
"It was an incident where the police had to open fire in self-defence because they were terribly outnumbered," government's communication advisor, Parakala Prabhakar, told PTI.
The police operation has come under severe attack from the government, political parties and civil liberties groups in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, which claimed that many victims were labourers from their state.
Prabhakar said a small combing party of 10-15 personnel were encircled by more than 200 smugglers who were "moving menacingly" towards them.
"In the past, police officials were axed to death, hacked to death. So, in self-defence, police had to open fire."
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday announced a compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to families of the 20 people, mostly Tamils, killed by police in Andhra Pradesh as protests took place in the state against the killings.
While the Tamil Nadu government reiterated its demand for an impartial, speedy and credible probe into the incident, fringe Tamil groups gathered near places in Chennai where Andhraites congregate.
These included the Andhra Club at T Nagar, branches of Andhra Bank and the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Information Centre, where police were deployed to prevent violence.