An Army court has recommended life imprisonment to an officer in a case pertaining to an alleged staged gunfight in which three Kashmiri men were killed in the Shopian district, PTI reported.

The officer, Captain Bhoopendra Singh, was subjected to a court-martial after a Court of Inquiry found that Army personnel had exceeded the powers vested to them under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the case.

The recommendation of the life sentence is subject to confirmation by higher Army authorities, the agency reported citing unidentified officials.

The three men – Abrar Ahmed, Imtiyaz Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar – were killed on July 18, 2020, in an alleged staged gunfight on suspicion of being militants. The family members of those killed had claimed that the three men killed were labourers.

On August 9, 2020, the families of the three men had filed missing person complaints with the police. The Army subsequently launched a formal inquiry into the matter.

A month after the inquiry was launched, the Army had said that it found “prima facie evidence” that its personnel had misused the powers conferred on them under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act during the encounter. It added that disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act had been initiated against them.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police had also launched an investigation into the case. In January 2021, the police in its chargesheet said that Singh had tried to destroy evidence in the case.

The police investigation had concluded that the three victims were labourers and had no links with militancy. The police also alleged that the weapons seized during the gunfight had been planted on the bodies of the three men.

Commenting on the verdict of the Army court on Monday, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the punishment awarded to Singh.

“Recommended punishment of life imprisonment for Captain involved in Amshipora fake encounter is a welcome step towards creating accountability in such cases,” Mufti said on Twitter. “Hope an impartial probe is also ordered in Lawapora and Hyderpora encounters to prevent repetition of such ghastly incidents.”