Srinagar: A little over a year has passed but an anxious father is still awaiting justice for his son and two others who were killed in a fake encounter by an Army officer in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.
And the wait gets longer as the Army is still finishing legal work six months after completion of its internal inquiry.
The Army had completed its Summary of Evidence against two of its soldiers involved in the Amshipura encounter in which three youths were killed and indications were that a court martial proceeding against one officer would be initiated.
In a parallel inquiry, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Jammu and Kashmir Police had filed charge sheet against three persons including Captain Bhoopendra Singh for “staging a fake encounter” in the higher reaches of Shopian district and killing three youths — Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar, hailing from Rajouri district of Jammu region — in Amshipura on July 18, 2020.
“I have lost my son. I was very satisfied earlier with the pace of the probe but now it seems that my hope has started diminishing as nothing is moving since last December. I have received Rs five lakh from the Jammu and Kashmir administration. Is that the price of my innocent son and others killed in cold blood,” Mohammed Yusuf, father of Abrar Ahmed, told PTI from Rajouri over phone.
The Army, however, maintained that the process of Summary of Evidence had been completed and the papers for the beginning of the final process were likely to be initiated soon.
“We will be completing the process soon and the person concerned is still in close custody [jail] with the Army,” a senior officer said on the condition of anonymity.
A sobbing Mr. Yusuf contended that the plight of a father who had lost his son needs to be understood. “God forbid, if my son would have been a militant, me and my entire family would have been behind bars. But now when everyone says they were killed in a cold blooded murder, what is taking it so long. Justice delayed is also justice denied,” he said.
Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha had visited the families in Rajouri last year and conveyed to them Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message that the government stands with the aggrieved families, and they will be taken care of with all support from the government.
The Army had completed its Summary of Evidence in the last week of December 2020 and the Army had issued a statement at that time saying “the process of recording the ‘Summary of Evidence’ has been completed. The same is being examined by the concerned authorities in consultation with legal advisors for proceeding further.” “The Indian Army is committed to ethical conduct of operations,” it had said.
The Army had ordered a Court of Inquiry after reports appeared on social media that three youth, labelled as terrorists, had been gunned down by its personnel were innocent.
The Court of Inquiry, which completed its probe in September, had found ‘prima facie’ evidence that troops had ‘exceeded’ powers under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act during the July 18 encounter in which three men were killed.
Officials in know of the development said an Army personnel may face court martial proceedings for violating the powers vested under AFSPA 1990 and not following the do’s and don’ts of Chief of Army Staff as approved by the Supreme Court.
The identity of the three youths were subsequently confirmed through a DNA test. The bodies were handed over to their families in Baramulla in October and were later buried in their native village of Rajouri.
“By handing over the body of my son and two of his cousins, who had gone to Shopian for work in an apple orchard, I was assured of a speedy justice but nothing seems to be working,” Mr. Yusuf said.
In the meantime, the charge sheet submitted by the SIT was pending before the court as time had been sought by the Army to finish with its internal probe and to hold trial of the Army official under the Army Act, the officials said.
The charge sheet had alleged that Capt. Singh had also provided wrong information to his superiors and the police about the recovery made during the staged encounter. Two others named by the police in its charge sheet are Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmed Lone, both civilians.
“By staging the encounter,” the three accused “have purposefully destroyed evidence or real crime that they have committed and also have [been] purposefully projecting false information as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched between them with the motive to grab” cash rewards, it said.
The Army had, however, denied that its captain staged the encounter for cash reward saying there was no such system for its personnel for any acts in combat situations or otherwise in the line of duty.
“The evidence was destroyed by accused Captain Singh,” the charge sheet said, adding he along with the other two accused set fire to a shelter at the encounter site.
The SIT charge sheet gave details of forensic analysis of the crime scene which was photographed “from all possible perspectives”. The FSL (Forensic and Scientific Laboratory) team recovered vital evidence that was seized.
The charge sheet listed 75 witnesses in support of its findings and has also provided technical evidence including call data records of the accused persons.
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