The Indian Army has been severely criticised by the Supreme Court for not deciding if it wants to take action against its officers involved in the Pathribal encounter case. The apex court on Monday issued a notice to the Defence Secretary and the Home Secretary in the March 25, 2000 encounter at Pathribal in South Kashmir in which seven people were gunned down for allegedly being Lashker-e-Toiba terrorists.
The court asked the Army if it will initiate court martial proceedings against the officers involved in the case. The Centre has to decide whether five Army officials including a serving Major General could be tried under the Army Act in the case.
A bench of Justices BS Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar gave the direction even as the Centre and the CBI continue to differ on the immunity enjoyed by the Army under the controversial AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and other regular laws in encounter killings.
According to the Army officials, the seven people killed in Pathribal were allegedly responsible for the gunning down of 36 Sikhs at Chittisingpura in the same district on the intervening night of March 19-20, 2000.
The case was investigated by the CBI which filed its chargesheet in 2007 against five Army personnel including a Brigadier who later rose to become a Major General.
However, the trial in the case was stopped after the Army moved Supreme Court claiming immunity for its personnel under the AFSPA whereas the CBI contended that the five had allegedly indulged in murder of civilians for which the immunity could not be provided.
Additional Solicitor General PP Malhotra, on behalf of the Centre, had denied that any fake encounter killings had taken place in the specific cases pertaining to Kashmir and Assam pending before the apex court.