Jammu, Oct 11: Army Thursday said fresh summons have been issued to eyewitnesses in the Pathribal fake encounter case even as it asserted that the court-martial proceedings are being held outside the jurisdiction of Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps “to ensure fair play.”
“The Army has once again issued summons through Chief Judicial Magistrate Anantnag (Islamabad) to the civilian witnesses including the relatives of the five persons killed in the Pathribal encounter. This time sufficient time is being given to them to appear before the officer recording the Summary of Evidence," PRO Ministry of Defence (MoD), Army's Northern Command, Lt Col Rajesh Kalia said Thursday. “Summons have also been sent to the concerned J&K police personnel to appear as witnesses before the officer recording the Summary of Evidence.”
The court-martial is being carried out against five officers allegedly involved in the fake encounter, which led to killing of five innocent civilians in Anantnag (Islamabad) district of south Kashmir in March 2000.
The Army spokesperson said “it is for fair play and equity that the proceedings are being held outside the jurisdiction of Army’s 15 Corps.” He exhorted the witnesses to appear and give evidence. Army had issued summons to eyewitnesses and relatives to depose before Army commander from September 20 after he initiated disciplinary proceedings against the accused Army officers at Nagrota-based 16 Corps headquarters. However nobody turned up from civilian eyewitnesses and relatives, arguing that they “failed to understand what we are supposed to turn up for when the Central Bureau of Investigation has already established Army’s involvement in the killings.”
APEX COURT OBSERVATIONS
In January this year, army told the Supreme Court that it will not take over the case of its officers involved in the fake encounter.
The army said the initiation of proceedings without permission is illegal. The Supreme Court criticized the army for its stand regarding the issue, saying that neither is it willing to take over the case nor is it handing it over to the magistrate.
“Nothing has been happening for the last 10 years regarding the case. Victims have not been able to get justice,” the Supreme Court observed.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also criticized the army stating that it has been trying to bury the case.
On March 19, CBI told the Supreme Court that the Pathribal encounter was in fact “cold blooded murder” and that the guilty officers deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment.
On May 1, the Supreme Court had given the army eight weeks to decide whether the accused should be tried by a regular criminal court or face a court-martial. The ruling had disappointed rights groups fighting to have the soldiers tried in a criminal court.
On June 29 the Army decided to opt for court martial to try five officers accused of killing five civilians in Pathribal fake encounter in March 2000 and subsequently the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Srinagar (designated CBI court) transferred the whole record of Pathribal case to Army authorities for initiating proceedings against the accused army men under the Army Act.