A haunting question
Do Pathribal victims have a right to justice?
As goes the adage `justice delayed is justice denied'. If it happens due to procedural wrangles, usually associated with the justice delivery system of the country, the people at large have accustomed themselves to take this delay into their stride. But what if the delay is deliberately caused due to the manipulative tactics of the official machinery; it is serious and nothing short of criminal.
The case of the over a decade old Pathribal episode certainly falls in the latter category and which is confirmed by the latest stand taken by the Army after repeated flip-flops during the last 12 years. There is no denying the fact that the security forces have been functioning under trying circumstances in Jammu and Kashmir during the past two decades. And there is no denying the fact that the forces particularly the Army have taken many steps to sensitize its personnel to the utmost need for protection of human rights.
But it is bizarre on the part of the men in olive to suddenly realize that they wanted to try the five officers allegedly involved in the Parthribal case in General Court Martial for killing five persons in the north Kashmir village in a fake encounter. This has happened at a time when the CBI, usually enveloped in controversies for manipulative probes, investigations in the case were seemingly making some headway and by the agency’s own assertion before the Supreme Court on March 19, 2012 that it was a case of “ cold-blooded murders”.
Eversince the event took place, the local residents and human rights and political activists have derided the official reports that the Army had waylaid and killed the five persons purported to be the foreign militants and responsible for Chitisingpora killings. What unfolded later not only confirmed these doubts but raised serious questions about the knee-jerk reaction of the official agencies in such cases meant either to claim cheap publicity or justify their actions.
The biggest drubbing the official theory received in the Pathribal case was after the exhumation of the five bodies following orders from the then Chief Minister and presently Union Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah on April 5, 2000. The DNA samples of the deceased sent to two laboratories outside the state were horrifically found to be have been tampered with.
Although the development should have shaken the entire system and immediate remedial measures were warranted to provide justice to the families of the deceased. But that was not to be and the investigations have lingered on for over a decade despite the discovery of a crass-criminal act of manipulating even the DNA samples. Such acts of omission and commission have definitely shaken the people’s confidence in the investigative agencies and the justice delivery system.
The Army authorities’ decision to start the investigations afresh by taking recourse to the General Court Martial after 12 years of investigations has further complicated the entire issue. It has raised a big question mark regarding the credibility of these very authorities. Well, there could be some merit in their decision to try their men under GCM. But then they will have to do a lot of explaining as to why it took them 12 years to suddenly arrive at this decision.
An immediate impression created by this decision, in the backdrop of the CBI investigations and observations before the Apex Court, is that the turnaround at best could be part of the tactics to further delay dispensing justice to the victim families. The Army's decision came after the Supreme Court had on May 1 given eight weeks' time to it to decide whether the accused officers will be tried in the GCM or face a trial in the civilian court.
Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan were charge-sheeted by the CBI in 2006 for killing five civilians and later dubbing them as foreign militants. As per the CBI investigation, the five civilians were killed and branded as militants days after 35 Sikhs were massacred in the nearby Chattisingpora village.
The Army authorities have every right to take legal recourse to defend the force. That is why they have been contesting the maintainability of the chargesheet on the plea that prior sanction from the Centre was required under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which provides immunity against prosecution to Army personnel deployed in disturbed areas. Its plea was rejected by all courts, including the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, till the Apex Court partly agreed with it saying prior sanction was required for prosecution.
A vital question arises here. Do the families of the Pathribal victims have a right to justice? Going by the book, they do have. But it will have to be translated into reality by the powers that be particularly the Army by explaining their delayed action in turning back to the GCM and take the case to its logical conclusion.
Question arises; what will happen to the CBI investigations which have described the incident as “cold blooded murder?” The ends of justice demand that any further investigation, be it the GCM or otherwise, should be transparent and take cognizance of the CBI findings. This is imperative to restore people’s confidence in the system.
(The author is New Delhi Bureau Chief of Greater Kashmir. Feedback at: email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Sun, 1 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 1 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 2 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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