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Pathribal encounter case: Antony appears to be backing Army

Source: PTI
February 16, 2014 15:49 IST
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Defence Minister A K Antony appears to be backing the army which is unwilling to review the clean chit it has given to five of its personnel in the alleged fake encounter in Pathribal, a decision that has generated outrage in Jammu and Kashmir.

The army recently announced that it was closing the case relating to the encounter in which five civilians were killed 14 years ago in Pathribal in South Kashmir. CBI had filed a charge sheet against four army officers, including a Brigadier, and a subedar.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, state's political parties and general public reacted sharply to the army's decision and pressed for a reconsideration. Omar took up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to Jammu.

The prime minister is believed to have told Antony to take a fresh look but he is said to be against that.

Repeated e-mails and phone calls to the defence ministry for a reaction, brought forth no response.

Army headquarters, however, said, "We have given our report to the Chief Judicial Magistrate and now it’s up to them to take whatever action they think is appropriate".

The only course for the state government now is to act through judiciary.

The chief minister had recently said on the floor of the State Assembly that "in case we have to proceed through a writ petition in the high court, we will surely do it. We are committed to ensuring justice to the people in these cases (Pathribal)".

After digging their heels for over five years, army had to bow down to a Supreme Court directive in May 2012 and institute court martial proceedings against five Armymen –the then Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan. All these officer had been charge sheeted by the CBI.

On January 23 this year, the army decided to close the case against its men and submitted a report to Chief Judicial Magistrate in Srinagar claiming that their was no evidence against the then Brigadier

All the five army personnel had been charge sheeted by the CBI for allegedly staging a fake encounter and labelling the five abducted civilians as foreign terrorists involved in the massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora on March 20, 2000.

The civilians were killed on March 25, 2000.

CBI, in its charge sheet, had alleged that the incident was a 'cold-blooded murder' and charged the five soldiers with offences including criminal conspiracy, murder and kidnapping in 2006.

The Army had contended that the CBI could not file a charge sheet against its men citing section 7 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a provision which provides immunity from prosecution to members of security forces unless permission to prosecute in a civilian court is sought from the central government.

In May 2012, the Supreme Court gave Army the option to hand over the accused Army personnel to the civilian courts, or to try them by court-martial. However, 18 months later, the Army announced that the case is closed citing "lack of evidence" as the reason.

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