Srinagar: The general officer commanding in chief of the army’s Northern Command, Lt. Gen. DS Hooda, has confirmed the life sentence awarded to six army men who had murdered three Kashmiri men for rewards and promotions in Machil area of Kupwara district in 2010.
A summary general court martial (SGCM) had sentenced to life the six personnel — colonel Dinesh Pathania, who was the commanding officer, captain Opindra, havaldar Devender Kumar, lance naiks Lakhmi and Arun Kumar and rifleman Abbas Hussain — in November last year after holding them guilty of murdering the civilians and then labeling them as militants.
The murders had triggered a massive anti-India uprising, which was put down with force by thousands of soldiers and policemen. More than 120 unarmed people, most of them young boys, were shot dead during street protests which continued for several months in the summer of 2010.
The guilty personnel, however, won’t be jailed instantly as the sentence will have to be first promulgated.
Asked whether they will be handed over to the state government for serving the sentence, army spokesman SD Goswami told Kashmir Reader, “There are legal implications and at the moment I cannot confirm which all things are going to happen after this (confirmation of the sentence).”
An army lawyer, asking for anonymity, said that there were still a couple of stages before the guilty would be jailed, which according to him should be a state prison.
“The accused have the right to file post confirmation petition under 164 of the Army Act before the government of India and after the process is completed, only then they will be jailed depending on the outcome of the petition,” the lawyer told Kashmir Reader.
“There are now two stages, the promulgation and thereafter the sentence will be executed, meaning they will be put behind the bars in a state jail.”
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 frontier district with arms and ammunition. The army had claimed that they were Pakistani militants.
However, it was established by the state police that the trio, Mohammad Shafi, Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed, were residents of Nadihal in Baramulla district and had been promised jobs by the guilty men.
The victims’ identities were actually revealed a month later when their bodies were exhumed following a massive protest. Then NC-Congress government had constituted a high-level inquiry commission to probe the killings but its report was never made public.
In October 2010, the government categorically blamed the incident for the unrest in the Valley.
In a written reply to a question raised by BJP leader Chaman Lal Gupta in the Legislative Assembly about the reasons behind the unrest, the then Minister in-charge Home said: “(It was over) the alleged human rights violations with specific reference to the death of three persons who were allegedly killed in a fake encounter at Machil, Kupwara.”
Police later chargesheeted nine people including six army personnel in July 2010 but had to hand over the probe to the army after it insisted on a detailed inquiry into the incident.
The accused were booked under various sections of RPC including 302 (murder), 364 (Kidnapping or abducting), 120B (Concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment) and 34 (act done with common intention).
April 30, 2010: Army said it killed 3 Pakistani militants in an encounter in Machil 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 Territorial Army rifleman Abbas Hussain Shah under court martial proceedings
November 14, 2014: Army’s summary general court martial sentences six soldiers to life imprisonment