The Indian Army on Monday began the Summary of Evidence, which is a step before a possible court martial, in the Shopian encounter case, PTI reported. Three young men, who were alleged to be militants, were killed by security forces in July.
Under the Army Rules, 1954, the Summary of Evidence is a process where the proof of charges against the accused is taken down in writing. The evidence of witnesses who deposed before the commanding officer, for or against the accused, and of any other person considered relevant to the case, is written down in the presence of the accused. The accused may put questions to the witnesses in cross-examination. These questions, along with the answers, are added to the evidence recorded.
The Army had said on September 18 that it had found prima facie evidence that its personnel misused powers under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1990, in the episode. It launched a formal inquiry into the deaths of the three men last month.
An unidentified Army official told PTI that it will also summon civilian witnesses for cross-examination, including “informers”. “You see every aspect of this needs to be probed thoroughly,” the official said. “The Army is committed to bring the inquiry to its logical conclusion but every angle needs to be probed.” The official added that the Army had maintained high standards of transparency and punished its personnel when they violated rules.
Earlier on Monday, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh had said that the investigation into the killing of the three men was in its final stages.
The police had said last week that the deoxyribonucleic acid samples of the three men – 20-year-old Imtiyaz Ahmad and 16-year-old Ibrer Ahmad, both from Dharsakri village, and 25-year-old Mohammed Ibrar of Tarkasi village – had matched with those of their parents in Rajouri district. The three young men were related to one another. Their families had claimed that they were labourers, not militants, as labelled by the security forces.
On August 9, the families of the three men had gone to a local police post with a missing persons complaint, saying that they last spoke to their kin on July 17, a day ahead of the encounter. The missing persons complaint was lodged on August 10.
For three weeks, the family had waited to approach the police. “We thought they might have been taken into quarantine in Shopian by the administration and that’s why they didn’t call us,” Lal Hussain, the maternal uncle of Imtiyaz Ahmad, had told Scroll.in. “We had heard the quarantine period is for 21 days.”
Soon after the complaint was lodged, pictures of the three missing youth went viral on social media. It purportedly showed the dead bodies of three “unidentified terrorists” allegedly killed in a gunfight with security forces in Shopian on July 18.
On July 18, the security forces had said that they received specific inputs about the presence of militants in the area, after which they began the operation. They also said that the suspected militants had allegedly opened fire at the security forces.