Victim families seek trial of accused soldiers in open court
The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to government of India, army and central bureau of investigation on a petition filed by family members of victims of Pathribal fake encounter in Kashmir, seeking trial of the accused army men in an open court, following the army ruling declaring the case to be “of no evidence.”
“The families are seeking that the apex court should set aside the army ruling which had declared it (Pathribal fake encounter) to be a case of no evidence. They are also seeking that the court should order the trial of the case in an open court,” advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, who appeared on behalf of the relatives of victims, told Greater Kashmir.
She said the court issued the notice and would hear the case after six weeks.
In 2012, the apex court had given an option to army of conducting the trial against the accused army men either through court martial or criminal court, after which the military had opted for the former.
“But the army didn’t conduct trial and the commanding officer said it was the case of no evidence. Had he the powers to declare so? That is the point. There has to be a trial as the army has not exercised the option. The families are now demanding a public and open trial,” said Ramakrishnan.
On March 25, 2000 the army killed five persons in Pathribal village of Anantnag district and labeled them as “foreign militants”, five days after the killing of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora.
The killing of five men had led to uproar in Kashmir following which the government ordered DNA testing of the victims which had conclusively proved that the victims were innocent local civilians, and not “foreign militants” as claimed by the army.
The case was subsequently handed over to CBI which in 2006 indicted five men of the Rashtriya Rifles, including Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan, for killing five civilians, dubbing them as “Pakistani terrorists” and holding them responsible for the massacre of 36 Sikhs.
In its chargesheet, the CBI stated that the killing of the innocents was a result of “tremendous psychological pressure” on the army to show results after the massacre of 35 Sikhs on the eve of the visit of then US President Bill Clinton to India.
“The army had washed out the investigation by the CBI. The case should have been tried either in criminal court or court martial,” said Ramakrishnan.
The victims’ families approached the Supreme Court after J&K High Court, in 2016, dismissed a petition seeking directions to the army’s Court of Inquiry to transfer proceedings to the CBI for taking cognizance into the killings.