The Army Northern Command confirmed Monday life terms awarded to six Army personnel, including a former commanding officer, for the 2010 killing of three youths in a fake encounter in Machil in north Kashmir. This is the first case in the Valley in which Army personnel have been awarded life terms on such a charge.
A spokesman of the Northern Command said Lt Gen D S Hooda, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, has confirmed the sentence of the Summary General Court Martial in the Machil encounter case.
“Colonel Dinesh Pathania, Captain Upendra, Havildar Devendra Kumar, Lance Naik Lakhmi, Lance Naik Arun Kumar and Rifleman Abbas Hussain have been awarded life imprisonment,’’ the spokesman said.
The sentence will be promulgated at the 28 Infantry Division in Kupwara. Sources said the six were likely to be sent to prisons in their home towns to serve the sentence. The promulgation will take away ranks of the men and send them to jail as civilians.
Last year, the court martial, headed by Brigadier Deepak Mehra of 68 Mountain Brigade, wrapped up proceedings and the sentence was sent to the Northern Command for confirmation.
The case relates to the killing in 2010 of Shezad Ahmad, Riyaz Ahmad and Mohammad Shafi from Nadihal village of Baramulla. On April 29 that year, the three were lured by two local counter-insurgency agents — Bashir Ahmad Lone and Abdul Hamid — and a Territorial Army jawan Abbas Hussain Shah to Kalaroos village in the Machil sector near the Line of Control.
The three, who were promised jobs as porters and “good money”, were killed by soldiers of 4 Rajputana Rifles near the Sona Pindi post and called “Pakistani militants”.
Their identities were revealed a month later when their bodies were exhumed following a public outcry. The state government then constituted a high-level inquiry commission to probe the killings, but its report was never made public. The killings, meanwhile, sparked widespread unrest in the Valley and 123 people died.
The Army initiated court martial proceedings in December 2013, based on the findings of a court of inquiry report that was submitted by Brigadier G S Sangha, the then Commander of 68 Mountain Brigade.
The Army probe was set up following a notice issued by the Sopore Chief Judicial Magistrate based on a chargesheet filed by local police against 11 people — nine Army personnel and two civilians — who were charged under Sections 302 (murder), 364 (abduction), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intent) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC).
In April 2013, a civil court handed over custody of the Territorial Army’s Abbas Hussain Shah to the Army for recording evidence. The court martial acquitted Hussain while two other civilians — Lone and Hamid — are still in custody.