The Army has commenced General Court Martial (GCM) proceedings at Nagrota-based 16 Corps headquarters against its five officers allegedly involved in the Pathribal fake encounter killing of five innocent men in Anantnag district of Kashmir more than 12 years ago.
“On Sept 20, the Army initiated disciplinary proceedings against the accused Army Officers in the alleged Pathribal fake encounter case”, an Army officer said.
Consequent to the Supreme Court’s Order, the Army had taken over the case from Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar, and thereafter attached these officers to its Nagrota-based 16 Corps, he said.
Lt Gen A S Nandal, GOC 16 Corps in the capacity of Commanding Officer, heard the charges preferred by CBI against these officers and directed summary of evidence to be recorded against them, officer said.
Lt Gen Nandal heard the evidence led by Ashok Kalra, the CBI Inspector who had investigated the case, he said adding he also produced the document filed by CBI before a CBI court.
“All witnesses examined by CBI during its investigation will now be summoned to appear before the officer recording summary of evidence. After the summary of evidence is recorded, the final charge-sheet will be prepared for the next stage of proceedings”, he said.
On the aspect of change of location of the Court Martial proceedings, the Army spokesperson stated that GOC 15 Corps had contested the case on behalf of the accused persons right up to the Supreme Court and therefore, it was just and proper as also fair to the victims’ families that the disciplinary proceedings be conducted by another commander.
In the fag end of June month this year, the Army decided to try in GCM its five officers allegedly involved in the Pathribal fake encounter in March, 2000.
The Army moved an application before the Chief Judicial Magistrate Srinagar, the designated CBI court, seeking transfer of the case to the GCM.
The CJM directed transferring the records including the charge sheet and other material evidence to the GCM through the Army’s authorised officer.
The Army’s decision came after the Supreme Court on May 1 gave eight weeks’ time to it to decide whether the accused officers will be tried in the GCM or face a trial in the civilian court.
Brig Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Maj Sourabh Sharma, Maj Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan were chargesheeted by the CBI in 2006 for killing five civilians and later dubbing them as foreign militants.
As per the CBI investigation, the five civilians were killed and branded as militants days after 35 Sikhs were massacred in the nearby Chattisingpora village.
The CBI had filed the charge sheet against the accused officers in 2006 but the Army contested maintainability of the charge sheet claiming that prior sanction from the Centre was required under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which provides immunity against prosecution to Army personnel deployed in disturbed areas.
The Army’s plea was rejected by all courts, including the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, till the Apex Court partly agreed with it saying prior sanction was required for prosecution.