SRINAGAR: Indian army on Thursday said that five of its personnel have been found guilty and sentenced to life for murdering three Kashmiri youths and passing them off as militants in a fake encounter in Machil sector of Kupwara district in 2010.
The army, however, said that the process is still on as the confirmation of the sentence is yet to be done by an appropriate authority.
The five army men including the then Col D K Pathania, who was the Commanding Officer, and Captain Upendera were held guilty by the Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) which sentenced them to life imprisonment, the army said.
The others held guilty were Havaldar Devinder, Lance Naik Lakhmi and Lance Naik Arun Kumar. Another accused, a subedar, has been let off by the SGCM, the PTI said, quoting an unnamed army official.
“The sentencing by the SGCM is pending confirmation from the confirmation authority after which the action would be considered legally complete,” the official said.
The incident came to light on April 30, 2010 when bodies of three youths were shown by army as militants who were trying to sneak into the Valley from higher reaches of Machil in North Kashmir with arms and ammunition. The army had claimed that they were Pakistani militants.
However, it was established by the Jammu and Kashmir police that the trio, Mohammad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed, were residents of Nadihal in Baramulla district and apparently misled on the pretext of giving jobs and later shot dead.
Police had chargesheeted nine people in July 2010 including six army personnel but had to hand over the probe to the army after it was assured of holding a detailed inquiry into the incident.
Following the fake encounter, a Territorial army man and two others were arrested by police but the incident led to widespread agitation in the entire Kashmir Valley which left 123 people dead.
The police chargesheet had named Col Pathania, Captain Upender and four others of the unit besides a Territorial Army jawan and two others for allegedly conspiring and kidnapping three youths on the pretext of giving them jobs and later killing them in the higher reaches of Kupwara claiming they were militants.
The chargesheet was filed in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate in Sopore.
Police had arrested three persons Abbas Shah, the Territorial Army man, Basharat Lone and Abdul Hamid Bhat for alleged involvement in the encounter.
These three people will now stand trial once the final report of the army will be submitted before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Sopore.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has applauded the sentences, but called for allegations of human rights abuses to be probed by civilian courts instead of the army itself.
“For justice to be the rule and not the exception, all cases of human rights violations should be investigated and prosecuted by independent civilian authorities,” Amnesty India programmes director Shailesh Rai said.
April 30, 2010: Army said it killed three Pakistani militants in an encounter in Machil sector along the LoC. The slain trio, however, turn out to be missing youths from Nadihal
May 27, 2010: After massive protests, the J&K government orders probe into the incident
July 15, 2010: Police chargesheets nine people including six army personnel. But the fake encounter fuels widespread agitation in the entire Kashmir Valley. More than 120 die in police/paramilitary action during the six month agitation
July 27, 2012: Sopore CJM allows the army to try the accused Col, two officers and four soldiers in a military court
March 18, 2013: The High Court permits the army to try TA rifleman Abbas Hussain Shah under court martial proceedings
Jan 2014: GCM proceedings exonerate a Major
—With inputs from PTI