The Armed Forces Tribunal on Monday stayed further action against two Indian Air Force officers in a matter related to the shooting down of a helicopter during friendly fire in Budgam in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27 last year, the Hindustan Times reported. The Mi-17 V5 chopper had been shot down in friendly fire during a skirmish between Indian and Pakistani jets on the border. Six IAF personnel and one civilian had been killed in the crash.
The Armed Forces Tribunal cited non-compliance with various statutory provisions by the Court of Inquiry as the reason for ordering a stay. In April last year, the Court of Inquiry had held two IAF officers responsible for the incident. The Court of Inquiry said the officers had not ensured that there were no friendly aircraft in zone, The Indian Express reported.
The two officers, Group Captain Suman Roy Chowdhury and Wing Commander Shyam Naithani, had challenged the decision. They alleged that they had been unable to mount a defence because the government had refused to share the Court of Inquiry report with them. In an application to the Armed Forces Tribunal last week, Chowdhury and Naithani said the Court of Inquiry was not “competent to investigate” the incident and “suffers from several legal and procedural infirmities”. They called the investigation “malafide, predetermined and illegal”.
In its order on Monday, the Armed Forces Tribunal said the Court of Inquiry had violated several provisions of the Air Force Rules, including non-sharing of its report with the accused officers. On August 19, the officers were told the proceedings could not be shared as they were “secret”, and were allowed access to only the “unclassified” parts. They challenged this before the Air Force authorities on August 21. But the Western Air Command rejected this application.
Aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force had violated Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27, a day after the Indian Air Force struck a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist group across the border.
The Pakistani military claimed it had shot down two Indian Air Force jets – one had crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir. India maintained that Pakistan shot down only one MiG-21 aircraft while the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet during the dogfight.