Army and govt did nothing, says judge who ordered Avtar’s arrest

FP

A retired high court judge who ordered the arrest of a former Territorial Army major accused of killing Kashmiri lawyer and human rights activist Jaleel Andrabi in 1996 today said that for years, the Army and government did nothing to help bring the officer to justice, and allowed him to escape from the country.

On Saturday, Major Avtar Singh killed his wife and two children before committing suicide at their home in Selma, California. He had been missing for over a decade, and was facing extradition to India after having been "found" in 2011. Singh's eldest child, a 17-year-old boy, is in hospital with gunshot injuries.

On April 10, 1997, Justice Bilal Nazki of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, along with Justice R C Gandhi, issued orders to arrest Major Singh, impound his passport and exhibit his pictures in the electronic and print media after they heard a petition filed by the High Court Bar Association in Srinagar.

However, the government took no action against Singh and several others, including Army officials, indicted for Andrabi's killing by a special investigation team of the J&K Police set up by the court.

Singh continued in service and did a stint with the Territorial Army in Ludhiana till at least 2001. He "disappeared" thereafter, moving subsequently to Canada and the US.

"Besides (providing) justice to his (Singh's) victims in Kashmir, we would have avoided the loss of more innocent lives that he took when he killed his family in the United States (on Saturday)," Justice Nazki, who retired as Chief Justice of Orissa High Court in November 2009, told The Indian Express.

"While I was hearing the case we set up a special investigation team of the J&K Police to probe the murder. The investigation was led by an efficient IPS officer from Bihar, I K Mishra, who was then the senior superintendent of police in Srinagar. I was personally convinced that the best investigation was done by the SIT," Justice Nazki said.

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