Army overruled the very concept of Republic: A Case of Pathribal Encounter

    By Ravi Nitesh,

    With all the sentiments of the republic, it is a contradiction to see that how after a long struggle of court case in the Pathribal Encounter Case, Supreme Court of India told the Indian Army on 1st May 2012 to give sanction for prosecution of officers or court martial them. Army announced on June 29, 2012 to court martial and now on January 24, 2014 , Army closed the court martial and said that no evidence found against accused officers.

    It is very shocking to see that how Indian Army overruled the Apex Court and protected its officers who were accused of fake encounters in a case where five civilians of J&K encountered to death in the year 2000.

    In the case, that was held on March 25, 2000 just after the prior incident of killing of 34 Sikh men in Chittisinghpora (J&K). First incident was obviously sad and for that detailed search operation and investigation was required. First operation was done by unknown anti-social and anti-national elements. Also timings of this killing was very important as it was just a day before the visit of Bill Clinton to India. In this context of scenario, there were many views regarding the incident. Some persons viewed it a conspiracy and various such arguments were in air. It could be viewed as a terrorist attack or a sponsored one, but all with the motive of making a scene that Kashmir is not peaceful at all and there is a need to deploy security personals to maintain law and order. However what happened later was more shocking and sad. It was encounter of five civilians at Pathribal (a place), that took place by Indian soldiers.

    This incident again became so shocking that people came out of their home to protest, to demand the action against Army. It was not abnormal at all and not unjustified because an armed personal has every responsibility to protect the people rather than killing them. Also, people were angry because they were already facing the everyday sufferings by armed forces deployed in J&K region.

    With the massive protest, the CBI came in loop and the investigation started that chargesheeted 5 personals of Indian Army in its chargesheet filed on May 11, 2006. Again with the impunity granted to army under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) where a prior sanction is required under AFSPA for any prosecution of officers, Army challanged the chargesheet. Then the case after the 6 year long judicial procedure heard at Supreme Court where CBI told that these encounters were cold blooded and also demands that these officials deserve exemplary punishment.

    With all this, anyone can easily understand that how it is so difficult to get permission to prosecute an armed personal under civilian law. Not even that, it is a valid proof of judicial delay where the case happened in the year 2000 and it came to an end in 2012 by judiciary while in 2014 it again went to fresh position from where the case was started. It is also a valid proof that how despite being a central agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is helpless and its own investigation became null and void in front of the army. It is also to know that how Supreme Court of India provided option of permission of sanction of prosecution and of doing court martial by army itself and as obvious Army choose to do a court martial. This again raise a question that why and how long we need a parallel system of providing justice at least in such severe cases of killings and rapes that were held in civilian areas and of civilians?

    Is not it a question upon whole concept of Republic?

    (Ravi Nitesh runs the NGO Mission Bhartyam and works on Indo-Pak friendship.)