Srinagar: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has denied sanction to prosecute army men in all the cases the Jammu and Kashmir state has sent to it in the last 17 years.
According to an MoD document, about 50 cases have been sent to the ministry by the Jammu and Kashmir government since the year 2000, asking for approval to prosecute army men in a court of law. Not a single case was approved. Citing lack of “prima facie evidence” to indict the army men, New Delhi denied sanction and all the JK Police’s investigations came to nothing.
What comes to fore in the official document is that almost all the offences committed by the soldiers fell in the jurisdiction of civilian administration. However, invoking the draconian Armed Forced Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that has been imposed in J&K, the army turned the civilian offences into military ones which could only be tried in a military court. Such denial of prosecution has often been a slap in the face of meticulous investigations carried out by the police following all proper procedures.
The largest number of cases which went to MoD for sanction of prosecution came during the time of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in the years 2006 and 2007, totaling 30 cases. Only one case was sent by the Farooq Abdullah government for prosecution, in the year 2000.
“A total of 50 cases have been received by the GOI from the government of Jammu and Kashmir for prosecution sanction against AFSPA, 1990,” the MoD has stated in the document.
“The reason for denial/pendency of prosecution sanction is on account of lack of sufficient evidence prima facie,” it adds.
According to the document, during the year 2001, sanction was denied to prosecute soldiers involved in the killing of one person during military operations.
In 2005, two cases were received which included a death during an encounter and another during retaliatory fire.
In 2006 the MOD received 17 cases in which army soldiers were indicted for crimes such as killing after abduction, apprehending and killing, death and apprehending of civilian, outraging the modesty of the woman, disappearance of two civilians, rape of a woman, death of a civilian in operation, death of civilian in retaliatory fire, beating of civilians, maltreatment, disappearance of civilian, illegal detention of civilians, abduction of a civilian, death of civilian after abduction.
In 2007, 13 cases were received which related to offences of torture and killing, apprehending and killing, torture and killing, rape of a woman, custodial death, 3 cases of disappearance of civilians, apprehending and killing, fake encounter leading to death of one person, and killing of a civilian.
In 2008, three cases were received which included soldiers involved in detention and killing of a civilian, disappearance of a civilian, theft and molestation and rape.
In 2009, two cases were received by MoD of disappearance and death under custody, while in 2010, four cases were received which included killing of a civilian, custodial death, two cases of killing of a civilian.
In 2011, two cases were received which included the kidnapping of a civilian and in 2013, three cases of killing of “suspected terrorists” and two cases involving killings of civilians were received by the MoD.
In 2014, two cases were received by MoD of civilian killings while in 2016, killing of two civilians and causing injury to two civilians were received from Jammu and Kashmir.
This year, three civilians were killed in a Shopian village when the army opened indiscriminate fire on protesters last week. The army maintains it fired in self defence but police source say the army had been told to not venture into the village, and yet they did. The police have filed an FIR against the army unit and named a Major-rank officer among other soldiers. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has vowed to take the case to its “logical conclusion”.
Going by the history of such cases, it is highly unlikely that the accused army men will be penalised due to the legal cover they enjoy under AFSPA.
A senior police official said that under section 69, and 70 of the army act, offenses committed by army will be dealt by the military courts.
“However, the act does not apply to the murder and the rape. It comes under civil offenses even if it is being committed on duty,” the official said. “Armed forces Special Power (AFSPA) acts which has been imposed in Kashmir after declaring Kashmir as a disturbed area turns the civil offenses committed by the army into military offenses.”
“The ministry of defense invokes AFSPA and says due to lack of evidence a particular rape and murder case can not be verified,” the official added.