The Army has decided to close the thirteen year old infamous Pathribal fake encounter case in which five innocent persons were allegedly killed by the Army and passed off as the terrorists responsible for the massacre of 36 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora.
“The evidence recorded could not establish a prime-facie case against any of the accused persons,” an Army spokesman said. “ It was clearly established that it was a joint operation by the Police and the Army, based on specific intelligence. The case has since been closed by the Army authorities”
The CBI, which investigated the case, has already concluded that the encounter was fake and the persons killed were innocent civilians. The investigating agency has identified and charged five senior army officials, including a brigadier, for abduction, murder, criminal conspiracy and the destruction of evidence in the fake encounter case. The accused are Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan.
The Army’s decision is being seen as brazen denial of justice by the people in Valley. Reacting to the decision, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter: “A matter as serious as #Pathribal can’t be closed or wished away like this more so with the findings of the CBI so self evident.” He also wrote that his government will examine options to pursue the case. “Extremely disappointed with the decision of the army reg#Pathribal. Will ask the Law Dept & Advocate General to examine options”.
Similarly, the opposition People’s Democratic Party has rejected the Army’s decision to close the case and termed it as a miscarriage of justice. The party’s patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said the decision is a huge setback to the efforts at reconciliation and trust building in the state. “Pathribal could have been a test case for our institutions to rise above other considerations and uphold the supreme principles of justice to open a new chapter of reconciliation in the state,” Mufti said. “But the opportunity has clearly been wasted”.
In 2012, the Army had decided to try its five personnel accused of staging the fake encounter following the Supreme Court judgement which called on the Army to make a choice between a trial for the accused in a civilian court or a court martial.
The Army’s decision to go for court martial had been cautiously welcomed by the human rights groups in the state, besides raising hope among people that the justice in the case will finally be delivered.
Pathribal, which has become one of the primary cases of the human rights abuse in the state, was a part of the three successive and related massacres between 20 March 2000 to 3 April 2000 in which 49 innocent people were killed. On March 20, unidentified gunmen – itself now shrouded in controversy – killed 36 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora followed by the Pathribal fake encounter on March 25, 2000 and the killing of nine civilians who were part of the protest against this encounter at Brackpora on 3 April.