Pathribal killings: Army opts for court-martial

Pathribal killings

Twelve years after the killing of five men in an allegedly faked encounter in Pathribal, Jammu and Kashmir, five Army personnel involved in the operation will face a court-martial.

The Supreme Court had on May 1 given the Army the option between a court-martial and a trial in a civilian court. Having been given eight weeks to choose, the Army has now moved an application in the chief judicial magistrate's court in Srinagar declaring it would go for the first option.

In May 2000, days after the massacre of 36 Sikhs in Chhittisinghpora, five men were abducted from their homes. The Army later announced it had killed, in an encounter, five Lashkar-e-Toiba militants responsible for the massacre. Relatives, however, later identified the bodies as those of the men abducted.

The case was handed over to the CBI in 2002 and it registered a case in February 2003, then filed a chargesheet in 2006 against five Army personnel — then Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Brijendra Pratap Singh, Sourabh Sharma, Amit Saxena and Idress Khan, all of 7 Rashtriya Rifles — for abduction, murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.

The Army later filed successive appeals in various courts arguing that its personnel couldn't be tried without sanction from the Centre. Following the Supreme Court's last directive, the Army moved an application in the Srinagar court on June 26, seeking to "try the accused army officers under court-martial", and asking for the court records including the chargesheet.

CJM Rajeev Gupta's court has handed over the chargesheet to allow the Army to take up general court-martial proceedings.

The order brought no cheer to the family of Juma Khan, one of the five killed. "We have already lost hope in the justice system," said Khan's son Shakoor Ahmad.

Khuram Pervaz, coordinator of the J&K Coalition of Civil Society, demanded that the proceedings be transparent with access given to the families of the victims.

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