Srinagar, Dec 9: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in Jammu and Kashmir has held the Army ''guilty'' of killing three innocent people from Banihal area in custody in 2002 and sought reinvestigation of the case by the Crime Branch.
Giving his judgement on a petition filed in 2003, acting SHRC chairperson Habibullah Bhat also ordered a compensation of Rs one lakh each to the family of the victims.
Three women — Zeeba, Zareefa and Jana Begum — had filed a petition with the SHRC in 2003, alleging that their spouses Abdul Rahim Goth, Bashir Ahmed Gujjar and Abdul Rahim respectively had been killed by the Army personnel of 2 JAT Regiment under the command of Major G S Gill in custody in 2002.
The petitioners said their spouses and others were held by troops while returning to their homes on July 13, 2002, after attending a public meeting of Farooq Ahmad Mir, a candidate from Banihal constituency during the state Assembly elections that year.
Due to Mir's intervention all the detained people, except these three, were released by the troops, the petitions said, adding the bodies of Goth, Gujjar and Rahim were handed over to their relatives by the Army personnel.
The petitioners alleged that the Army personnel, led by Major Gill, had killed them in custody. ''They were shown as militants and killed in an encounter.''
The killing had evoked massive protests in the area in 2002 after which a case (number 115) was registered at Banihal police station.
During the course of investigations, it was established that these three people had been killed in custody by the Army and later labelled as militants gunned down in the encounter.
The Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Ramban, submitted a report under number 18510 on October 31, 2003.
The Station House Officer (SHO) of Banihal police station had, through a letter, asked Commanding Officer of 100 Mountain Brigade headquarter to furnish a list of those Army personnel present at the scene on the day of occurrence of the incident, the report said.
It said the SHO also sought their presence at Banihal police station for inquiry, but the Army personnel failed to do so.
The report further said the unit of 2 JAT Regiment was later shifted from Tanka Gali in Banihal. ''The question of the Army personnel regarding the incident has not been conducted so far and the statement of eyewitnesses yet to be recorded. The investigations of the case is going on,'' it added.
Besides, the authorities of 2 JAT Regiment submitted a report at Banihal police station, claiming that all the three bodies were of militants. The three people were killed in an encounter and the arms and ammunition seized from their possession was lying with 2 JAT Regiment, the Army said in its report.
On this, another case was registered at Banihal police station.
Both the FIRs (115/02 and 116/02) were of same nature, but registered separately. In FIR number 115/02, it was submitted that all the three bodies were of innocent people. The deceased along with Ghulam Qadir had been picked up by Major Gill and his colleagues at Tanka Gali while returing to their homes after attending the public meeting of Mir, it added.
All the four people were kept in a room. But, on the intervening night of July 22-23 in 2002, while Ghulam Qadir was asked to stay in the room, the other three were taken out and later their bodies had been found, the FIR said.
However, the 2 JAT Regiment had submitted in its FIR that all the three deceased were militants and killed during encounter.
The evidence on record comprise statements of Kaka Gujjar, father of deceased Bashir Ahmad Gujjar, Abdul Rashid and his brother, residents of Banihal area.
The evidence had candidly established the custodial killing of these three innocent villagers, Bhat said in his order.
The three witnesses corroborated each other, saying Mir was a candidate in the 2002 Assembly polls and these three people had gone to attend his public meeting and were on their way to their homes when detained and later killed in fake encounter by Major Gill and his colleagues of 2 JAT Regiment, he added.
''The SSP Banihal's report is clear. He has stated that investigations of the case had shown that these three people were innocent and established to have been killed by 2 JAT Regiment stationed at Tanka Gali Banihal,'' the acting SHRC chairperson said.
Army authorities were contacted, but they did not cooperate during investigations, he said, adding the Banihal police station registered an FIR (number 115) and it was established beyond doubt that the three people were killed in custody by personnel of 2 JAT.
Bhat said one more case under number 116 was also registered at Banihal police station at the instance of 2 JAT Regiment.
''This FIR was only a cover up and registered after protests by villagers against the innocent killings,'' he added.
Bhat said the investigating officer had recorded statements of many witnesses under section 161 of CrPC. ''It was established that the bodies of the three people had bullet marks and were later handed over to their relatives. The police had found them as innocent citizens,'' he added.
Disposing of the petition, the acting SHRC chairperson ordered a compensation of Rs one lakh each to the family of the victims and also the benefit of SRO-43 to the relatives. He further ordered that the crime branch should reinvestigate the case against the personnel of 2 JAT Regiment.
The recommendations were submitted to the Jammu and Kashmir government through the state Chief Secretary.