Towards Justice

A military court has sentenced to life in prison to the captain who was involved in the Amshipora fake encounter, in which three youth from the Rajouri region of Jammu and Kashmir were killed on July 18, 2020, and passed off as militants.  The court found that Captain Bhoopendra Singh, of the Army’s 62 Rashtriya Rifles, then stationed in South Kashmir’s Shopian district, “exceeded powers vested under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act” during the encounter. The life sentence for Captain Singh is “subject to confirmation by higher Army officials, and the process involved in such cases is still on, according to army sources.”

After the encounter took place in 2020, the police had accused Singh  and two associates of planting weapons on the bodies of three labourers. To be fair to Army, even it was quick to blame its own personnel in this incident.  Earlier, the Army had claimed to have killed three unidentified militants in the said encounter. But once their pictures were published in newspapers and circulated on social media, three families in Rajouri claimed they were their children and insisted they had had no terror links.  According to the families, the trio had gone to Shopian to work as labourers. The Army was quick to order a high-level Court of Inquiry into the  encounter and was quick to indict captain Singh which came as a pleasant surprise to people at the time. Army was also quick to confirm that the three youth killed in an encounter at Amshipora were civilians from Rajouri.

As the Amshipora case has once again showed, what matters is the accountability of the personnel responsible for any excesses, not the revocation of the AFSPA per se. Best possible way out is a willingness among the security agencies to act fairly and speedily in cases of rights violations. This is the only pragmatic solution under the circumstances. And Army by acting against its own personnel in Amshipora case has showed that it has zero tolerance for human rights violations. In past there was talk of making necessary modifications to the AFSPA to ensure that security personnel who commit human rights violations are accountable for their actions. But as its action in Amshipora case has once again proved, Army has an inbuilt legal mechanism to punish the erring personnel. And once a wrong has been done, the personnel responsible for it are duly punished.

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