Army declines to share info on Machil convictions

Srinagar: Army has declined to share information about the murder in staged gunfights of civilians by soldiers in Machil and Pathribal areas, saying divulging any details at this stage will jeopardise investigation—and prosecution of offenders—into these cases.
Venkatesh Nayak, who works as Programme Coordinator of Access to Information Programme Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative at New Delhi, had sought the information under Right to Information Act from the army’s first appellate authority.
He had requested for records of the court martial in Machil and court of inquiry in Pathribal besides a copy of charge sheet and sentence awarded to the convicted army personnel.
“I find that requisite information has been correctly denied under section 8(1) H of RTI Act 2005 by the chief public information officer. I therefore uphold the decision,” an army official had told Nayak in reply to the RTI query.
Earlier, army’s CPIO had denied the same information, prompting Nayak to appeal before the first appellate. Now, he said he would file a second appeal before moving the central information commission.
According to him, the army has no reason to withhold the information because it claimed that several accused in Machil triple murder case had been convicted and investigation into Pathribal had also indicted several soldiers including officers.
“I sought court martial records and that’s not any secret, which could jeopardize national security. Why army court records are not being put in public domain,” said Nayak.
He said the ministry of defence should realize that people are curious to know as to whether anyone was convicted or not.
“How did army arrive at the decision of convicting its own men? The decision does affect people at larger level and they (people) have right to know about it. I wonder why government is putting information in public domain,” he added.
According to Amnesty International’s report released on Wednesday- “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”-stated the army has dismissed more than 96% of all allegations of human rights violations against its personnel in the state as “false or baseless”. It also said the evidence for finding the majority of allegations false is not publicly available.

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