Pathribal case: Army’s clean chit to 5 officers

JAMMU (TIP): The Army on January 23 gave a clean chit to five of its officers allegedly involved in the Pathribal encounter that took place in Anantnag district of Kashmir in March 2000.

Following the CBI investigation and the Supreme Court’s March 2012 order, the Army had taken over the Pathribal case from the court of the Srinagar Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in June 2012. Jammu-based Defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Mehta said the evidence recorded could not establish a prime facie case against the five accused officers.

It, however, clearly established that what happened in Pathribal was a joint operation by the police and the Army based on specific intelligence. “The case has since been closed by the Army authorities. The court of the Srinagar Judicial Magistrate has been informed,” said Lt Col Mehta. “Forensic, documentary and other evidence was taken on record. For the convenience of the next of kin of the deceased and other civilian witnesses, the team recording evidence moved to the Valley,” he said.

Five civilians were abducted in May 2000 from their houses, days after 36 Sikhs were killed by unknown gunmen dressed in Army fatigues in south Kashmir’s Chattisinghpora area. Following the killings, the Army had claimed to have gunned down five Lashkar-e-Toiba militants responsible for the killing of the Sikhs at Pathribal. Relatives, who had seen their men being abducted, however, grew suspicious of the Army’s claims and later identified the bodies of “militants” as their “abducted” men.

They were: Mohammad Yousuf Malik (38) and Bashir Ahmad Bhat (26) of Peth Halan; Juma Khan (50) and Juma Khan (38) of Brari Angan and Zahoor Ahmad Dalal (22) of Mominabad. A case was registered in February 2003 and the CBI filed a chargesheet before the court of the Srinagar Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in 2006 against five Army personnel — Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Brijendra Pratap Singh, Sourabh Sharma, Amit Saxena and Idress Khan, all of 7 Rashtriya Rifles.

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“A comprehensive and exhaustive effort was undertaken to record evidence against all the accused. Over 50 witnesses were examined, including a large number of civilian witnesses, state government and police officials,” Lt Col Mehta said. Last October, the Army had once again issued summons through the Anantnag CJM to the civilian witnesses, including relatives of the five persons killed in Pathribal, to appear before the General Court Martial (GCM) authorities at the Nagrota-based 16 Corps to attend the General Court Martial proceedings.

The Srinagarbased 15 Corps had contested the case of the five accused Army officers up to the Supreme Court. The Army is very sensitive to allegations of human rights violations and ensures the due process of law is followed and action taken against the accused, Lt Col Mehta said. Earlier, the Army had court-martialled six of its personnel in the alleged Machhil encounter case and proceedings were currently in progress. It has also punished 123 of its men found guilty in 59 cases of human rights violations in the state.

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